Cancer Council Australia

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Re-introducing the national skin cancer awareness campaign

Australia cannot afford to be the world’s skin cancer capital. The 2010 election is an ideal opportunity to shake this unwanted tag permanently, with the next Australian government uniquely placed to commit to an ongoing national skin cancer awareness campaign.

An analysis of previous Australian government skin cancer awareness campaigns shows that every dollar invested returns $2.32 in reduced healthcare costs and delivers $90 million in productivity gains. Maintaining the campaign over 20 years would cut melanoma cases by 20,000 and non-melanoma skin cancer cases by 49,000.1

Each year skin cancer costs the Australian health system almost $300 million 2 and claims more than 1850 lives.3 GP consultations to treat non-melanoma skin cancer alone increased by 14% between 1998-2000 and 2005-2007, from around 836,500 to 950,000 visits each year.4

No other common cancer is so directly attributable to a single, avoidable cause – UV radiation – yet Australia remains the world’s skin cancer capital.

The most effective way to reduce the social and economic burden of skin cancer on a national level is for government to commit long-term to a targeted skin cancer awareness strategy, built around a multimedia social marketing campaign.

Both Labor and the Coalition supported a national skin cancer awareness campaign while in government, even before we had evidence of its effectiveness. Now that the benefits are clear, the campaign should be an ongoing part of Australia’s public health framework.

The campaign has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective public health investments available to government.1 Significantly, the research indicating the value-for-money in skin cancer prevention is based on independent analyses of the government’s skin cancer prevention campaign, which had run to good effect over recent summers.5

A comprehensive cost-benefit analysis conducted in 2008 shows that government investment in skin cancer prevention returns $2.32 for every $1 invested.23 This analysis draws on the longstanding success of state-based SunSmart campaigns 1 and is further supported by more recent analyses showing the effectiveness of the government’s skin cancer awareness campaign to encourage sun protection behaviour.5

Extrapolating the previous successes, an ongoing commitment would reduce the number of melanoma cases by 20,000 over the next 20 years and the number of non-melanoma skin cancer cases by 49,000 – an enormous cost saving to the health system. The campaign is also estimated to have delivered $90 million in annual productivity gains.5

Funding an ongoing commitment to a national SunSmart media campaign would be cost-effective, at a time when population ageing imposes increasing cost pressures on Australia’s health system.

Cancer Council Australia calls on the next Australian government to recognise Australia’s skin cancer burden and the need for appropriate action, by re-introducing its successful national skin cancer awareness campaign.



1) Shih STF, Carter R, et al Economic Evaluation of a National SunSmart Program, Health Economics Unit, School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, in press.

2) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Health system expenditures on cancer and other neoplasms in Australia, 2000-01. 2005.

3) Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of death, Australia 2008.

4) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare & Cancer Australia 2008. Non-melanoma skin cancer: general practice consultations, hospitalisation and mortality.

5) Dobbinson, S, Jamsen K, Francis K, Dunlop S and Wakefield M, 2006–07, National Sun Protection Survey, 2008.


This page was last updated on: Tuesday, August 7, 2012