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Media Release

Cancer Council research shows sun mistakes putting Aussies at risk

December 19, 2019

With the UV index at extreme levels and many Australians aiming to beat the nationwide heatwave, Cancer Council Australia is reminding Australians to be vigilant about their sun protection, with new data showing we are making simple mistakes when it comes to protecting ourselves from sunburn. 

The latest data from the National Sun Protection Survey has shown that nearly 40% of adults who have been sunburnt said it was because they stayed in the sun too long and one in three reported they have been burnt because they either forgot to use sun protection or didn’t think they needed it. 

Furthermore, one in 10 Australians also adapted their sun protection habits due to the misguided belief they needed more vitamin D.  

Craig Sinclair, Prevention Advisor, Cancer Council Australia said, “Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime and these results show that we still have a long way to go when it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun.” 

“With nearly 40% sunburnt adults saying staying in the sun too long was their reason for sunburn, it is important to remember no sunscreen is a suit of armour and it should never be used to extend your time in the sun. During summer, when UV levels are extreme, you should plan activities for earlier in the morning or in the evening, when UV levels are generally lower and always make sure you adequately protect yourself.” 

“Adequate sun protection means using five measures of sun protection: slip on protective clothing, slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on wrap-around sunglasses,” Sinclair explained. 

Twenty-seven percent of people also reported they were sunburnt because they forgot to reapply their sunscreen, didn’t use enough sunscreen or missed a spot. 

“The average-sized adult needs around a teaspoon of sunscreen for their head and neck, each limb and for the front and the back of the body. That is about 35ml (7 teaspoons) of sunscreen for one full body application. It should be applied 20 minutes before you go outside and re-applied again every two hours or after swimming or towel-drying. 

“Often, it’s times when we might not think about sun protection, such as when it’s cloudy or when we are doing incidental activities like gardening, where we get caught out so it’s important that people keep protecting themselves from the sun front of mind this summer,” Sinclair said. 

When it comes to Vitamin D, the results of the survey showed women were more likely than men to try to get more vitamin D, with 16% saying they adapted their sun protection to get more vitamin D, compared to 9% of men. 

“The average Australian will get enough vitamin D in summer in a matter of minutes through everyday activities, such as hanging out washing, grabbing a coffee or walking to the car. Research has shown prolonged sun exposure does not cause vitamin D levels to continue to increase - but it does increase the risk of skin cancer.” 

Media Enquiries
Please contact Tegan Brown in the Cancer Council Australia media team on (02) 8256 4109 or email [email protected]
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