Cancer Council Victoria has welcomed a new independent study showing its SunSmart program has led to a decline in melanoma.
Published in The Medical Journal of Australia today, the study by University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre examined the incidence of invasive melanoma from 1985 to 2015 in Victoria.
They found melanoma incidence had decreased among Victorians aged under 55, and while incidence was increasing among those aged over 55, rates had slowed since the mid-1990s. The authors directly attributed the trends to the effectiveness of SunSmart’s skin cancer prevention program and its campaigns, which began with the famous Slip! Slop! Slap! campaign in the early 1980s.
Cancer Council Victoria’s Prevention Director Craig Sinclair said the paper was a timely reminder of the powerful effect of the SunSmart program as this year marks 30 years since the program began.
“The decrease we’re seeing in melanoma now is testament to the positive impact SunSmart has had on the sun protection behaviour of Victorians,” Mr Sinclair said.
“We see this impact reflected every day by the number of school children in broad-brim hats, by the increased shade in our public parks and gardens, and by the strong public support we had that led to a ban on commercial solariums.”
Mr Sinclair said the research built on previous papers showing SunSmart is estimated to have prevented more than 43,000 skin cancers and 1,400 skin cancer deaths in Victoria between 1988 and 2011. Studies also showed SunSmart has saved money as well as lives, returning $2.20 to the public purse for every dollar invested in the program.
“This latest research reinforces the value of a comprehensive skin cancer prevention program for Victoria. However, it’s important we don’t take these wins for granted,” Mr Sinclair said.
“Sustained investment in SunSmart is crucial to continue the gains we have made in decreasing melanoma rates for under 55s, and to extend this success to all Victorians.”
 Shih STF, Carter R, Heward S, Sinclair C. Skin cancer has a large impact on our public hospitals but prevention programs continue to demonstrate strong economic credentials. Aust N Z J Public Health 2017