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One in two Aussie sunburns occur during everyday activity

New research shows Australians ‘caught out’ by incidental UV damage

New Cancer Council research findings show half of weekend sunburns occur while Australians are going about day-to-day activities, with the home replacing the iconic summer beach scene as a sunburn hotspot.

Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are joining forces this National Skin Cancer Action Week (15-21 November) to remind Australians that when it comes to damage from UV radiation, 'it all adds up', whether by accident or attempts to tan, and increases the risk of skin damage and cancer.

Results from Cancer Council's National Sun Survey*, released today (15/11) show that over summer weekends, 50 per cent of adult sunburn occurs during everyday activities such as gardening and chores around the house, along with passive recreation activities such as reading, enjoying a picnic in the park or having a BBQ.

According to the Chair of Cancer Council Australia's Public Health Committee, Craig Sinclair, the figure dwarfs the 29 per cent of adults sunburnt during activities at the beach, lake or pool, as well as the 21 per cent sunburnt playing sport or taking part in other active recreation.

"I think people will be surprised by these results," Mr Sinclair said.

"These 'incidental' sunburns are catching people out. It may not occur to people that sun protection is just as important whether you are in the backyard, lying in the park or hanging out at the beach.

"After decades of sun protection messages targeting the bronzed Aussie, just 11 per cent of adults are actively trying to get a tan. However, 64 per cent of adults report having tanned skin, which shows that most ultraviolet (UV) damage is unintentional. Tackling this trend of incidental UV exposure is our next big challenge."

Australasian College of Dermatologists' President, Associate Professor Chris Baker, said skin is like a 'memory bank'.

"It remembers all the time outdoors unprotected – all the sunburns, tans and solarium visits," Associate Professor Baker said.

"Throughout summer, when UV rays hit levels of 3 or above, the skin will be damaged fast if it is not protected. This damage all adds up and increases your long-term risk of skin cancer."

Associate Professor Baker said skin cancer was by far the most common cancer in Australia, with dermatologists, surgeons and GP's treating more than 2,000 skin cancers every day.

"The good news about skin cancer is that it can be prevented and, if detected early, can also be successfully treated.

"It's important to get to know your skin and what looks normal for you. If you notice any changes in size, shape or colour of an existing spot, or the development of a new spot, you should get it checked by a doctor or your dermatologist as soon as possible."

Mr Sinclair said a combination of sun protection steps was the key to preventing skin cancer.

"Make sure you check the sun protection times each day to find out when the UV levels are 3 or above. During these times: slip on clothing; slop on SPF30 or higher, broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen; slap on a broad-brimmed hat; seek shade; and slide on sunglasses."

Sun protection times are available for locations across Australia via Cancer Council's SunSmart app or at

Key Results

*The National Sun Protection Survey was conducted via phone over the summer of 2013-14. A total of 6349 Australians were interviewed. Conducted every three to four years by Cancer Council, the survey provides a perspective on changing trends in Australians’ sun protection behaviours and rates of sunburn over the past decade

Table 1: Prevalence of sunburn by activity type among Australian adults 18-69 years who were sunburnt during peak UV times over the summer of 2013-14

Table 2: Adults who attempted a suntan vs adults who reported having tanned skin



Infographic A | Download

Infographic B | Download


Audio grabs

Grab A - Craig Sinclair | Download

Grab B - Craig Sinclair | Download

Grab C - Craig Sinclair | Download

Grab D - Craig Sinclair | Download

Grab E Local - Craig Sinclair | Download

Grab F - Associate Professor Chris Baker | Download

Grab G - Associate Professor Chris Baker | Download

Grab H - Associate Professor Chris Baker | Download

Grab I - Associate Professor Chris Baker | Download

Grab J Local - Associate Professor Chris Baker | Download

Media contact:

Cancer Council Australia - Hollie Jenkins 02 8063 4153, 0400 762 010 or

This page was last updated on: Friday, November 3, 2017