Sloppy approaches to sun safety are leading young Australians down a slippery path, with a skin cancer awareness campaign delivering a timely slap on the wrist.
Three in four 18 to 30-year-olds believe they are unlikely to develop skin cancer over their lifetimes, despite melanoma being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia.
Half of young Australians regularly use sunscreen and sunglasses, and fewer always wear a hat when out in the sun, according to a 3000-person strong survey from the Cancer Council.
Men were more likely than women to believe sun tanning was healthy at a young age, with 31 per cent saying a tan offered some protection against ultraviolet radiation.
Health Minister Mark Butler has launched a social media campaign to tackle lax sun safety attitudes, targeting TikTok, Instagram and YouTube users.
“Young people can think they’re bullet proof and that’s certainly the case when it comes to skin cancer,” Mr Butler said on Monday.
“They think it won’t happen to them, but the sad fact is it can.
“Skin cancer affects two in three Aussies and comes at an enormous cost, personally and collectively.”
Cancer Council Australia chief executive Professor Tanya Buchanan said the desire for a tan is making young Australians more vulnerable to melanoma.
“The truth is, until every young Australian feels confident in their natural skin, skin cancer will sadly remain our most common cancer,” she said.
Melanoma researchers Richard Scolyer and Georgina Long have been named joint Australians of the Year for their work in turning skin cancer from a death sentence to a treatable disease.
The pioneering scientists have called for skin cancer to be treated as a national health priority, and for an end to glamorising tanning.
In a rallying call for greater sun safety, Professor Long warned there was “nothing healthy about a tan”.
“Our bronze Aussie culture is actually killing us so we call on advertisers and social media influencers – stop glamorising tanning or using it to sell or advertise for entertainment,” she said.
Following the awards, the prime minister has pushed for urgent action on skin safety.
“We are the gold medallists when it comes to melanoma around the world, and we need to do better,” Anthony Albanese said.
(Australian Associated Press)