9 in 10 Australians do not know when they need sun protection, study reveals

A new data released by Cancer Council reveals that 40 percent of Australians are still confused about which weather factors cause sunburn.

The study also shows that fewer than 1 in 10 Australians understand that sun protection is required when UV levels are 3 or above.

Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Heather Walker, said the new National Sun Protection Survey shows a clear gap in Australian’s knowledge of sun protection.

“This new research shows that Australians are still very confused about what causes sunburn, which means people aren’t protected when they need to be. In summer 2016-2017, 24 percent of Australian adults surveyed incorrectly believed that sunburn risk was related to temperature, while 23 percent incorrectly cited conditions such as cloud cover, wind or humidity,” he said.

“It’s important for us to reinforce the message that it’s Ultraviolet Radiation that is the major cause of skin cancer- and that UV can’t be seen or felt. It’s a particularly important message this time of year as we head into the Easter break. In autumn, temperatures in some parts of the country are cooling, but UV levels right across Australia are still high enough to cause serious sunburn and the skin damage that leads to cancer.”

Professor David Whiteman, head of the Cancer Control Group at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, said that encouraging Australians to use sun protection is still a challenge despite efforts to educate many.

“These findings show that very few Australians know when to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays,” he said.

“This is clearly a concern as it’s likely that Australians are relying on other factors, like the temperature or clouds, to determine when they need to slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

“There is overwhelming evidence that, if used correctly, sunscreen prevents skin cancer – yet at the moment many Australians don’t even really understand when it’s required, and many are neglecting to use it altogether. We also know from previous research that 85 percent of Australians don’t apply it correctly.”

Many Australian workers spend more than half of their time in outdoor works and are at risk of heat-related illness and skin cancer. A 2015 analysis by Cancer Council showed that only one in two outdoor workers were provided with sun protection.

Cancer Council advises that sun protection for outdoor workers is important. Providing portable shade wherever possible is beneficial, but when outdoor work is unavoidable, providing protective clothing, sunscreen and broadbrim hats are recommended.

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