SunSmart calls on festivals to join the fight against skin cancer

Tuesday 14 December, 2010

SunSmart is urging all festivals to join the fight against skin cancer by ensuring the provision of adequate sunscreen for festival-goers this summer after receiving a spate of complaints about the confiscation of sunscreen.

"Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is extreme during the summer months and it takes just 11 minutes outside in the midday sun to get sunburnt. Malignant melanoma is the most common cancer among Australians aged 12-24 - the exact age group that frequents these festivals," said SunSmart Manager, Sue Heward.

"We implore festival organisers to put in place a UV policy that ensures their patrons are supplied with sunscreen, whether it be at a number of different easy-to-access locations around the festival area, and/or roving sunscreen sellers or that there is an exception to the no liquids allowed policy allowing patrons to bring their own," said Ms Heward.

Following the confiscation of sunscreen at various festivals around Australia in the last year or so, SunSmart has received an influx of complaints from young people whose sunscreen was taken due to the enforcement of strict no liquids policies.

Tahlie Petersen, a 22 year old girl from Pakenham, recently attended a popular festival on a day when the UV level reached as high as 12 (extreme).

"I was really surprised when my sunscreen was confiscated by security on my way in to the festival. When I asked them where my friends and I could get sunscreen from, the ladies shrugged and said maybe at an ambulance. However when we got in, we couldn't find the ambulance area and we weren't able to buy it anyway either," said Ms Petersen.

When approached by SunSmart, festival organisers claimed this no liquids rule is aimed to prevent drugs being smuggled in within sunscreen containers.

"We reiterate the importance of being prepared for sun protection again and again, especially to young people. Now we have a situation where our efforts are being thwarted by insufficient UV policies at these popular festival events. It is a shame to let the banning of illegal substances also encompass the banning of sensible sun protection practice," emphasised Ms Heward.

According to the security manager at the festival, due to the extreme heat and insufficient sunscreen to cater for the 35,000 attendees, the ban was lifted at 1.30 pm after 5,000 people had already entered.

Ms Heward said, as we enter the peak UV season in Victoria, it is critical people are protecting their skin as it is UV that causes sunburn, tanning, skin and eye damage and skin cancer - not the temperature or amount of sunshine.

"We know that childhood and adolescence are critical periods during which sun exposure is more likely to contribute to skin cancer in later life. Festival organisers have a responsibility to protect their patrons from harm, including skin damage," said Ms Heward.

"Another practical step that festival organisers can put in place is to plan for and provide shade at venues, either by taking advantage of natural shade from buildings and trees or adding portable shade. Staying in the shade, out of the direct sun, can reduce overall exposure to UV radiation by up to 75%," said Ms Heward.

SunSmart tips for this summer

Preparation is the key to protecting yourself in the sun so check the daily SunSmart UV alert on your phone or online before heading out and note the time of the day that sun protection is required. Remember to use a combination of the five SunSmart steps. Never just rely on one form of protection.

  1. Slip on some sun-protective clothing - that covers as much skin as possible.
  2. Slop on SPF30+ broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen 20 minutes before you head out and make sure to take a bottle or tube with you so you can re-apply every two hours.
  3. Slap on a hat - a wide brimmed hat will protect your face, head, neck and ears. Baseball caps do not provide enough coverage.
  4. Seek shade
  5. Slide on some sunglasses - make sure they meet Australian Standards, are close-fitting and cover as much of the eye area as possible.

The SunSmart app is now available to download for free from the iTunes App Store. The SunSmart UV Alert is also available at sunsmart.com.au, in weather section of daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website bom.gov.au/uv.

Updated: 14 Dec, 2010