Adolescents tone down tanning 10 years on attitudes to tanning improve, but sun protection neglected

Monday 17 November, 2014

New findings from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey show Australian adolescents are developing healthier attitudes towards tanning, but there is still room for improvement.

Research released today (17/11) shows 38 per cent of Australian adolescents (aged 12-17 years) liked to get a sun tan in the summer of 2013-14, compared to 60 per cent 10 years ago.

Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Ian Olver, said the results were encouraging and that most young Australians no longer viewed the ‘bronzed Aussie’ as something to aspire to.

However, the survey also showed adolescents were still not doing enough to protect themselves from the sun. “Twenty-three per cent of adolescents are still sunburnt on summer weekends, a figure which shows no significant change since 2003-04,” Professor Olver said.

Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are using National Skin Cancer Action Week (16-22 Nov) to remind young people that they aren’t invincible, and that proper sun protection and skin awareness can be a lifesaver when it comes to skin cancer.

Victorian SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said it was encouraging to see the progress that had been made, but that there was more work to do.

“Most people think of cancer as a disease of old age but this is certainly not true of skin cancer - Australian adolescents have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. However, despite the promising shift in attitudes towards tanning, the latest Melbourne data (summer 2013-14) shows that only 31 per cent of adolescents wore sunscreen on summer weekends” she said.(i)

Dermatologist and Chairman of the Victorian Faculty of the College of Dermatologists, Dr Adrian Mar, reminded young Victorians that getting to know their skin was an important part of being SunSmart. “Make a habit of keeping an eye on your skin and getting to know what ‘normal’ is for you. It doesn’t take long and can make the difference between early detection and not knowing until it’s too late. If you notice any changes, see your doctor because early detection of skin cancer almost always means it can be successfully treated.”

Former Olympian, Stephanie Rice, is supporting this year’s campaign, urging young people to take their skin health more seriously to reap the long-term benefits.

“I’ve grown up outdoors and in the water and loved every bit of it - but you have to be smart. Skin cancer can almost be considered our national cancer, yet it’s so preventable. When you’re heading out, slip, slop, slap, seek and slide and make your summer a safe one.”

Key results

The 2013-14 National Sun Protection Survey was conducted via phone over the summer of 2013-14. A total of 6,349 Australians were interviewed, including 1,061 adolescents aged 12 to 17. Conducted every three to four years by Cancer Council, the survey provides a perspective on changing trends in sun protection behaviours and rates of sunburn over the past decade.

Results for adolescents aged 12 to 17 are compared to previous surveys.

Trends in adolescents’ intentional tanning attitudes and behaviour

Adolescents (12-17) N= 3,779

2003-04
%

2006-07
%

2010-11
%

2013-14
%

Like to get a suntan 60 51 45 38
Believe a suntanned person is more healthy 19 17 12 16
Attempted a suntan this season 32 22 22 17

 

Trends in adolescents’ weekend sunburn

Adolescents (12-17) N= 3,779

2003-04
%

2006-07
%

2010-11
%

2013-14
%

Sunburnt on summer weekends 25 24 21 23

 

Differences in attitudes and behaviour by gender

Male adolescents’ sunburn incidence and
suntan preference

2003-04
%

2006-07
%

2010-11
%

2013-14
%

Burnt either day of the weekend 25 28 23 26
Like to get a suntan 54 43 37 31

 

Female adolescents’ sunburn incidence
and suntan preference

2003-04
%

2006-07
%

2010-11
%

2013-14
%

Burnt either day of the weekend 26 19 20 19
Like to get a suntan 66 60 52 47

 

Contact: Laura Wakely, Media & Communications Adviser - SunSmart, 9514 6356 or 0429 406 423

(i) Dunstone K. SUMMER 2013-14 ONLINETRACKING SURVEY RESULTS:SKIN CANCER PREVENTIONKNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIOURS AND SUMMER CAMPAIGN EVALUATION. Cancer Council Victoria: Research Report for SunSmart. Melbourne, August 2014

Updated: 17 Nov, 2014