Learn about: skin cancer, being SunSmart, and how to incorporate sun protection strategies into your day to day activities.

Generation SunSmart

200,000 West Aussies now have reduced risk of skin cancer

More than 200,000 West Aussie kids have grown up with a reduced risk of skin cancer since Cancer Council WA’s SunSmart Schools started in 1998.

SunSmart  WA Manager Mark Strickland said exposure to damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation during childhood and adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer later in life, and schools play an important role in reducing this exposure.

“SunSmart wants to say thank you to all the schools who have signed up for the program in WA over the last 20 years. We’ve long known that it’s really important to teach our kids these good SunSmart behaviours early on, and now we are seeing the results in dramatically reduced melanoma rates in those aged between 15 and 39.”

“The good news is the message appears to be getting through and it’s saving lives – for people aged under 40, the rates of the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, has dropped from 13 cases per 100,000 people in 2002, to about 9 in 2016.”

In the 20 years of the SunSmart Schools program, a large number of WA primary schools have shifted from baseball caps to broad-brimmed hats and from crewneck short-sleeved shirts to alternatives with collars and longer sleeves.

In 1998, 34% of WA primary schools had sun protective hats for students. In 2016, that number had risen to 93% of schools.

“Encouragingly, we find that the kids involved in the program are so used to wearing hats and sunscreen that they often remind their parents to do the same,” Mr Strickland said.

While our primary school aged kids have got the right message, an alarming number of adults are getting sunburnt on summer weekends.

The latest Cancer Council National Sun Protection Survey shows that overall the proportion of adults slipping on clothing to protect themselves from the sun has decreased from 19 percent to 17 percent in the last three years.

Meanwhile the proportion of adults who get sunburnt on the weekend hasn’t improved and now sits at 17 percent, equivalent to more than 2.7 million adults.

“Melanoma rates in Australians aged 40 and under are dropping and the children of today are our most SunSmart generation ever. However, it’s a real concern that sun protection behaviours overall don’t seem to be improving and that over 2.7 million Australians are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer by getting sunburnt on summer weekends.”

Across WA, over 300 primary schools are registered as official SunSmart Schools. Check if your school is SunSmart at www.generationsunsmart.com.au

 Background information:

  • Cancer Council WA’s SunSmart Schools program aims to reduce skin cancer by minimising student and staff exposure to UV radiation from the sun at school and during school-associated activities.
  • A SunSmart School is a school that has registered with Cancer Council WA and has a comprehensive sun protection policy.
  • The Cancer Council SunSmart message is for people to protect themselves from UV in five key ways:
    • Slip on protective clothing
    • Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen
    • Slap on a hat
    • Seek shade
    • Slide on some sunglasses
  • Sun protection is required when the UV Index is 3 or above. You can check the daily UV at myuv.com.au

20yrs photo