Teenagers fail to heed skin cancer warnings

14 Dec, 2005 08:45 PM

AROUND one third of WA teenagers are still getting sunburnt on a typical summer weekend, much higher than the national average of one quarter, according to the Cancer Council WA.

WA teenagers are also almost twice as likely as adults to be burned.

The National Sun Survey showed young people were getting burnt not only at the beach and pool, but while enjoying everyday outdoor activities such as picnics, watching or playing sport, eating lunch at a café and in the backyard garden.

The Cancer Council, concerned that teenagers were putting themselves at increased risk of skin cancer, used the first day of summer to launch a new campaign aimed at getting young people to see sun protection as being an essential part of their lifestyle.

The $500,000 Generation SunSmart campaign is the biggest in WA aimed at this age group.

Figures from the WA Cancer Registry showed there were 1053 cases of melanoma in 2003 (650 in men and 403 in women) ­ the highest number of melanoma cases recorded in WA.

Melanoma was the second most common cancer in men and the third most common in women in WA.

There were 128 skin cancer deaths in 2003, of which 86 were due to melanoma.

The Cancer Council¹s director of education and research Terry Slevin said if there was going to be a downturn in melanoma rates, this generation of West Australians adopt effective sun protection behaviour.

³Ironically, the National Sun Survey showed that more than 90pc of teenagers are aware of the risk of skin cancer through sun exposure, yet in WA more than 30pc of them are still getting sunburnt,² Mr Slevin said.

²This shows very clearly that they are not applying this sun protection knowledge every day.²

The Cancer Council has produced a new television commercial which shows young people being cooked on a rotisserie at the bus stop and the skate park.

The advertisement carries the tagline, don¹t cook for looks.

³Fashion has a huge impact on sun protection,² Mr Slevin said.

³For example, sleeveless and singlet tops provide little protection for the arms and shoulders.

³Caps, which are enormously popular among young people, expose the neck, ears and face.

³We need to encourage young people to wear hats that protect the face, neck and ears, like bucket-style hats, to be comfortable in sun protective clothing and to wear sunglasses.

³While sunscreen is helpful, on its own is not enough to stop the damage from the sun.²

Compared with the national average from the National Sun Survey:

p More WA adolescents wore hats (46pc v 38pc). However, fewer WA adolescents wore broad brimmed hats (2pc v 5pc)

p More WA adolescents used > SPF 15+ sunscreen (44pc v 37pc)

p Fewer WA adolescents used shade (11pc v 19pc)

p Fewer WA adolescents wore a long sleeved top (6pc v 11pc).

p Significantly fewer WA adolescents wore long pants or a skirt (18pc v 37pc).

³These findings indicate that we need to get young people to take sun protection more seriously and we believe we can achieve that through this new campaign and other strategies,² Mr Slevin said.

³Through Generation SunSmart, our aim is to cut the skin cancer rate in WA by half in the next twenty years.²

The don¹t cook for looks commercial will be broadcast through summer.



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