Young Victorians targeted in hard-hitting skin cancer television campaign

Thursday 19 November, 2009

Young Victorians will be shown the deadly side of tanning this summer with the launch of a skin cancer television campaign today.

The Dark side of tanning graphically represents the damaging impact of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the deadly nature of melanoma, which is one of the most common cancers in young Victorians.

Minister for Health Daniel Andrews launched the $1 million campaign at Cancer Council Victoria as part of National Skin Cancer Action Week.

Director of Cancer Council Victoria Professor David Hill said the campaign dispels the myth that having a tan is a sign of good health.

"We applaud the State Government's commitment to this skin cancer prevention campaign," Professor Hill said. "In Victoria nearly 20 percent of all cancers in 15 to 24 year olds are melanomas and those figures don't include the burden of non-melanoma skin cancers.

"We also know that 43 percent of Australian adolescents believe a suntan ‘looks healthy' and continue to favour a tan as the ‘in' look for summer.

"The truth is that a tan is a sign of your skin cells in trauma. In fact, you don't even have to burn to cause damage to your skin cells. The campaign shows what really happens when your skin is exposed to too much UV radiation.

"Melanoma only has to be 1mm deep to be dangerous and it can spread and reappear in vital organs sometimes years after it has been cut out of the skin."

SunSmart Manager Sue Heward said two television commercials are running as part of the campaign, targeting both young men and women.

"Cancer Council research indicates that males are more likely to get sunburnt than females, as they are more likely to spend time outside and less likely to use sun protection," Ms Heward said. "With young women 29 percent are out there deliberately tanning.

"The commercials take viewers inside the skin cells of a young woman deliberately tanning and young men on a sports field. It graphically illustrates how a deadly melanoma as small as a pin-head can spread throughout the body.

"It shows the effects of deliberate tanning but also emphasises that people who don't intend to tan are exposed to dangerous levels of UV if their skin is not protected."

Ebony Ward, 23, was still a teenager when she was diagnosed with melanoma.

"Growing up I loved horse riding, netball, watching my brother play footy and spending time outdoors. My mum always encouraged me to wear sunscreen but I wasn't always careful to reapply and occasionally got burnt.

"I was only 18 when I was diagnosed. I didn't even think that melanoma was cancer! I had a tumour the size of a soft drink can removed from my hip. The cancer had moved to my lymphatic system and I had radiation treatment for my lymph nodes. I've had ongoing issues over the past five years as well.

"If the mole had been found 6 months later my prognosis could have been very different. I'm just a normal Aussie girl and if it can happen to me it can happen to anyone."

Twenty nine year old Kristy Plant says she began tanning when she was a teenager.

"I was only young when I started using coconut oil to help get what I thought was a better tan. From my early twenties I went to the solarium, on average, weekly until I was 25.

"My melanoma was a tiny red lump that looked like an itchy bite and not black like the typical colour of a melanoma so I was lucky to have it diagnosed. The surgery and recovery was extremely traumatic, and I need to have check ups every four months for five years to make sure the cancer doesn't return.

"Tanning is not worth it. It may look good at the time but it's not worth the sacrifice for your future. Premature ageing, scars and skin cancers don't look good on anyone."

The Dark Side of tanning campaign, developed by the Cancer Institute NSW, will begin on Victorian televisions on Sunday, November 22 and continue throughout summer. It will also be broadcast in outdoor, cinema and digital media.

The Fashion to die for solariums campaign was also launched today.

"Fashion to die for targets women aged 18 - 30, who remain the biggest users of solariums in Victoria," Ms Heward said. "This campaign highlights the dangers of solariums - people who use a solarium before the age of 35 have a 75 percent greater risk of melanoma than those who don't."

Ms Heward said the message behind the skin cancer campaigns is important for all Victorians.

"In Victoria alone 343 people will die from skin cancer (melanoma and non melanoma skin cancer) each year - this is more than Victoria's annual road toll," she said.

"From September to April, UV levels are 3 and above which is high enough to cause skin and eye damage, and lead to skin cancer. I urge all Victorians to make sure they protect themselves and slip, slop, slap, seek and slide.

"There is no such thing as a safe tan - whether from the sun or a solarium."

To view the Dark Side of Tanning commercials and for more information on skin cancer and skin protection visit www.sunsmart.com.au.