Ninety per cent don’t know when they need sun protection

Australians could be unknowingly increasing their skin cancer risk, with new data released by Cancer Council showing that 40 per cent are still confused about which weather factors cause sunburn.


The study also shows that fewer than one in 10 Australians understand that sun protection is required when UV levels are 3 or above.


The release of the new research comes as sunscreen and sun protection experts gather at the Sunscreen Summit, convened by the Australian Skin and Skin Cancer Centre, in Brisbane on 19 March to discuss strategies to improve Australians’ use of sun protection.


Heather Walker, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee said the latest National Sun Protection Survey results showed a clear gap in Australians’ knowledge.


“This new research shows that Australians are still very confused about what causes sunburn, which means people aren’t protected when they need to be,” she said.


“In summer 2016-17, 24 per cent of Australian adults surveyed incorrectly believed that sunburn risk was related to temperature, while 23 per cent incorrectly cited conditions such as cloud cover, wind or humidity.


“It’s important for us to reinforce the message that it’s Ultraviolet Radiation that is the major cause of skin cancer – and that UV can’t be seen or felt.”


Professor David Whiteman, convener of the Sunscreen Summit and head of the Cancer Control group at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said that despite years of public education, encouraging Australians to protect their skin was an ongoing problem.


“These findings show that very few Australians know when to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays,” he said.


“This is clearly a concern as it’s likely that Australians are relying on other factors, like the temperature or clouds, to determine when they need to slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.


“We also know from previous research that 85 percent of Australians don’t apply it correctly.”


Cancer Council’s SunSmart app provides local UV alerts and sun protection times and can be downloaded free on the App Store or Google Play.


When UV levels are 3 or above, Cancer Council recommends:

  • Slip on protective clothing
  • Slop on SPF30 or higher, broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • Slap on a broadbrim hat
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses.


20 March 2018.