Set your location
Clear Selection

Investment in national mass media campaigns to increase public awareness about skin cancer risk, sun protection and associated behaviour change

A national skin cancer prevention campaign has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective public health investments available to government. Campaigns have been shown to reduce skin cancer morbidity, mortality, and contribute to reducing the economic burden of skin cancer. A cost-benefit analysis of three campaigns implemented in New South Wales found for every $1 invested a return of $3.85 is achieved [1].

Sun protective behaviours and sunburn in the population showed substantial improvement between 2003-2010 but have stalled in recent years [2]. This highlights the need for investment in skin cancer prevention campaigns to maintain progress and reduce the nation’s skin cancer burden. Renewed and adequate investment is essential as sun protective behaviours are amenable to change and increased exposure to campaigns is associated with increased sun protective behaviours [3]. To reinforce the decreasing trend of adolescents seeking a tan[4], innovative social marketing and new technologies should be utilised.

On Cancer Council’s analysis, an investment of $20 million per year over three years would pay for a broad sun protection awareness campaign across national TV, radio and digital platforms, with sufficient impact to deliver significant returns in reduced social and economic costs related to skin cancer. We recommend that the Australian Government invests $20 million per year in the national skin cancer awareness campaign for three years.

Investment in population health research into sun protection behaviours to inform evidence-based policy and programs

Cancer Council has conducted National Sun Protection Surveys since 2003, based on a survey that ran in Victoria from the 1980s. By tracking knowledge, attitudes and behaviours, the surveys have provided valuable evidence underpinning world-leading skin cancer prevention policies and programs, and have evaluated their effectiveness. However, a decline in response rates to the surveys due to changing methodologies has made the survey unfeasible for Cancer Council to continue. Without this data, there will be no evidence-base to guide our vitally important skin cancer prevention policies and programs. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is uniquely placed to incorporate questions related to sun protection measures into their surveys to ensure essential data on the knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of Australians can continue to be collected nationally. Investment is therefore needed from the Australian Government to maintain Australia’s position as a world leader in skin cancer prevention. It would also be valuable for all state and territory health departments to invest in routinely collecting state-wide data through their population health surveys.

Establish a roadmap towards optimising early detection of melanoma

While overall 5-year relative survival for melanoma is high in Australia, it was estimated that 1,725 melanoma deaths would be reported in 2019, with a high proportion of deaths among people diagnosed with late-stage disease. [5] This highlights the need for improving the early detection of melanoma to further improve survival and reduce healthcare costs. The treatment costs for melanoma are also increasing at a higher rate than costs for any other common cancer. In 2010, the annual cost burden of treatment for melanoma was estimated to be $272 million.[6] As early detection is associated with reduced mortality and treatment costs, a targeted, systematic approach to early detection of melanoma is essential.

In partnership with the University of Sydney, Cancer Council has been funded by the NHMRC to investigate risk-stratified approaches to melanoma early detection. Building on NHMRC findings, identifying opportunities for applying new technologies to support self-examination and triage to improve the accuracy of diagnosis is encouraged. A landmark roadmap towards optimising early detection of melanoma is also recommended as it will provide a cost-effective guide to reduce the burden of melanoma in Australia.


  1. Doran CM, Ling R, Byrnes J, Crane M, Shakeshaft AP, Searles A, et al. Benefit Cost Analysis of Three Skin Cancer Public Education Mass-Media Campaigns Implemented in New South Wales, Australia. PLoS One 2016;11(1):e0147665 Available from:
  2. Volkov A, Dobbinson S, Wakefield M, Slevin T. Seven-year trends in sun protection and sunburn among Australian adolescents and adults. Aust N Z J Public Health 2013 Feb;37(1):63-9 Available from:
  3. Dobbinson SJ, Wakefield MA, Jamsen KM, Herd NL, Spittal MJ, Lipscomb JE, et al. Weekend sun protection and sunburn in Australia trends (1987-2002) and association with SunSmart television advertising. Am J Prev Med 2008 Feb;34(2):94-101 Available from:
  4. Cancer Council Victoria. Adolescents tone down tanning 10 years on attitudes to tanning improve, but sun protection neglected. [homepage on the internet] Melbourne: Cancer Council Victoria; 2014 [cited 2020 Sep 10]. Available from:
  5. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Cancer in Australia 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 29]. Report No.: Cancer series no.119.Cat. no. CAN 123. Available from:
  6. Elliott TM, Whiteman DC, Olsen CM, Gordon LG. Estimated Healthcare Costs of Melanoma in Australia Over 3 Years Post-Diagnosis. Appl Health Econ Health Policy 2017 Dec;15(6):805-816 Available from:

Explore our Prevention Policy.