While Baby Boomers would literally rub themselves in oil and bake in the sun for hours on end in the past, resulting in skin cancers and death for many, it appears the younger generations hasn’t learned from the mistakes of the past.
New research released by Cancer Council Australia shows 62 per cent of Aussie teens say their friends think a tan is a good thing, despite the clear message that there is nothing healthy about a tan. The result from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey found 38 per cent of teenagers say they like to get a tan, with 43 per cent of teen girls admitting they prefer a tan.
While getting a tan was the cool thing for many Baby Boomers to do, it’s something many regret in older age, particularly if they’ve had to have numerous cancers removed or lost a loved one due to skin cancer or melanoma. Skin cancers account for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers and the majority are caused by exposure to the sun.
Peer pressure could also be a cause of concern when it comes to tanning for the younger generations, with 67 per cent of girls saying their friends think a tan is a good thing. The survey also found that while tanning preferences amongst teens have dropped since 2003, improvement in the preference for a suntan has stalled since the last survey in 2013.
There are now calls for teenagers and young adults to own their skin tone as part of National Skin Cancer Action Week.
“Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world and these results show that messages about the dangers of too much UV exposure are not getting through to teenagers,” CEO of Cancer Council Australia Sanchia Aranda said in a statement. “We know that teens are influenced by their friends and 62 per cent of teens saying they believe their friends think a tan is a good thing, the reality is many teens may be seeking a tan this summer.”
According to Aranda, the Federal Government hasn’t invested in skin cancer prevention in Australia in 11 years and the latest results show that skin cancer awareness needs to see renewed investment. Worryingly, it’s not just teens who are at risk, with two in three Australians expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70.
“Tanning is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation to damage your skin and we need to make sure teenagers get this message, to prevent a rise in the incidence of skin cancer for the next generation,” President of the Australasian College of Dermatologists Andrew Miller said in a statement. “It’s as important as ever that we remember to slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunglasses to protect ourselves from skin cancer.
The latest warning comes in light of National Skin Cancer Action Week, a skin cancer awareness event held in November each year to raise awareness of skin cancer prevention and early detection.
The Cancer Council had previously issued a list of tips to help people enjoy the warm weather, while still protecting themselves against melanoma and harmful UV rays.
It’s important to remember that sunscreen alone won’t protect people. While using SPF30+ cream is vital, wearing sun protective clothing, opting for water resistant sunblock if swimming or getting wet, choosing a wide brim hat, avoiding direct sunlight where possible and protecting your eyes with sunglasses is also important.
Equally, sunscreen needs to be reapplied throughout the day. It needs to be applied 20 minutes before getting in contact with UV light and to spread it evenly across the body. According to the recommendations, 5ml for each arm, leg, face and body is appropriate. It also needs to be applied every two hours and should always be reapplied after coming into contact with water or if a person has been sweating.