What 90% Of Australians Do Not Know

Every 4 years the Cancer Council Australia completes a study investigating skin cancer knowledge and awareness amongst Australians and we continue to fail heavily. In the most recent study of over 3600 individuals, 9 out of 10 Australian were unaware that sun protection was required when the UV index was above 3. The study also highlighted that 24% of Australians incorrectly associated the risk of sunburn with temperature. In fact, over 40% of Australians were unsure of the factors that contributed to the risk of skin damage.


When do you need sun protection.

To minimise the risk of skin damage we should all use sun protection when the UV index is above 3. While sun levels, cloud coverage, temperature, and humidity may contribute to comfort and the perceived sun intensity, the UV index remains the contributing factor.

Heather Walker, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee stated, “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”. Heather goes on to say, “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.”

Professor David Whiteman, head of the Cancer Control group at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute quotes, “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.These findings show that very few Australians know when to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful rays,”


How to protect yourself and others when the UV index is above 3:

Always remember that the safest way to protect yourself and the ones you love is to minimise exposure to the sun, particularly when it is at its most intense. This is largely behavioural, requiring that we plan our outdoor activities around the times of the day or seek shade when we must be outside during time of high UV index. When we must be outside during these times we can primarily reduce exposure by covering the skin surface with clothing and sunglasses etc. Finally, when all of the above have been attempted but are either inaccessible or unsatisfactory we apply sunscreen. Remember sunscreen does not remove all risk, or filter all radiation. It is our last line of defence and should not be relied on exclusively.


Here is our sun protection checklist we should all be familiar with:

  • Slip on protective clothing
  • Slop on SPF30 or higher, broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
  • Slap on a broadbrim hat
  • Seek shade
  • Slide on sunglasses

Results of Study

Measures most useful for determining risk of sunburn:

The UV Index value at which sun protection is required:

Source: The National Sun Protection Survey is conducted every three to four years by Cancer Council. Over 3,600 Australian adults were interviewed via telephone.

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