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Media Release

Bronzed Aussies don’t link tanning with skin cancer

October 27, 2021

A national Cancer Council study assessing sun protection attitudes and behaviours of Australian adults showed an alarming number of adults still prefer a bronzed body. 

The 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia™), examined the sun protection practices of 2,154 Australian adults over the summer months.   

Two in five adults (40%) reported they like to get a suntan, and 62% of respondents reported having tanned skin, with sun exposure being the most common method for achieving a suntan. 

Head of SunSmart and Chair of Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Heather Walker, said it was concerning to see so many adults still seeking a suntan. 

“Australians need to be reminded that there is no such thing as a safe tan. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, more melanin is produced causing the skin to darken. This is what we know as a ‘tan’. A tan is a sign that skin has been damaged by UV radiation,” Ms Walker said. 

The results weren’t all grim. The research also showed that the majority of respondents (84%) protected their skin to avoid sunburn, and three in four (75%) respondents believed they could avoid skin cancer by regularly protecting themselves. Ms Walker said the data provides evidence that the sun protection messaging is resonating with Australians. 

“We know our SunSmart campaigns are having an impact and we’ve seen a remarkable drop in skin cancer rates over the years. However, there is more work to be done – particularly in combatting the myths around tanning. People need to understand that tanning also increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Alfred Hospital Victorian Melanoma Service Director Associate Professor, Victoria Mar, reiterated the dangers involved in tanning. 

 “Sun damage accumulates over time, so even if you’re seeking a tan but not burning, the risks will be heightened and for some people this will result in skin cancer. That’s why it’s so important for Australians to use adequate sun protection and avoid tanning,” Associate Prof Mar said.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In 2021, it’s estimated that 16,878 melanomas will be diagnosed across the country, and every year almost 2,000 Australians lose their lives to the disease. 

In Australia, sun protection is advised when UV levels are 3 or higher. SunSmart recommends people:

  • Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • Slap on a Broad-brimmed hat that shades the face, ears and neck
  • Seek Shade and
  • Slide on sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard for UV protection 

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Please contact Leah Eastment in the Cancer Council Australia media team on (02) 8256 4109 or email [email protected]
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