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There's nothing healthy about a tan ... still

Thursday 3 December, 2020

Man holding a face mask, with a face mask tan

In 2009, SunSmart launched The Dark Side of Tanning – a mass media campaign designed to start combatting widespread pro-tanning attitudes. Using graphic illustrations, the campaign aimed to increase awareness of the link between UV exposure and skin cancer. The takeaway message was clear; ‘there’s nothing healthy about a tan’.

The campaign ran successfully for 7 consecutive years with research showing the target audience was less likely to get a tan and more likely to use sun protection.

Fast forward 11 years and SunSmart is once again reminding Victorians there’s no such thing as a safe tan. The message comes off the back of new data from the 2019 Summer Sun Protection Survey (Life in Australia) that found nearly half of Australian adults (46%) reported having tanned skin from sun exposure last summer.

Head of SunSmart, Heather Walker, said it was important for Victorians to remember that the UV exposure responsible for a tan also increases the risk of skin cancer.

“Even if your skin isn’t burning, a tan is a sign that your skin cells are in trauma and have been damaged by UV radiation. A tan occurs as your skin produces more pigment trying to protect itself from the damaging UV.

“Skin cancer develops when skin cells are damaged and grow uncontrollably. The more you tan, the more that risk is heightened,” she said.

Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In Victoria in 2019, over 2,800 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 270 lost their lives to the disease.

Ms Walker said many people don’t realise that it’s not just sunbaking that results in a tan. Often it’s the incidental UV exposure from day-to-day activities during summer that causes the damage that can lead to skin cancer.

“Over the last few decades we’ve seen a shift in attitudes towards tanning with our research showing fewer adults prefer a tan. It’s likely that people are getting caught out with incidental UV damage rather than deliberately sunbaking.

“With the UV reaching extreme levels for much of the day in summer, just going for a quick walk to the shops or having a coffee outdoors unprotected can put people at risk. It can take as little as 11 minutes on days with extreme UV for the damage to be done,” she said.

SunSmart is reminding Victorians that no tan is worth the risk of skin cancer and no one is immune. Skin cancer can and does happen to all skin types.

Scrap any plans to tan this summer and remember to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide when the UV is 3 and above.

Learn how to protect yourself and your family this summer at 


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