New research: teens go cool on tanning

23 November, 2011

Young Australians are changing their attitudes towards tanning with fewer seeking the bronzed look than ever before, according to new Cancer Council research released on 22 November 2011.

National Skin Cancer Action Week: November 20-26

  • 15% fall in teens who prefer a tan since 2003-04
  • Only 12% of teens believe a tanned person is more healthy

Cancer Council’s latest National Sun Protection Survey conducted in summer 2010-11, shows the preference for a suntan among 12 to 17 year-olds has steadily dropped, down to 45% since the previous surveys (51% in 2006-07 and 60% in 2003-04).

Cancer Council Australia’s CEO, Professor Ian Olver, welcomed the findings and said the survey demonstrated Australia’s public health campaigns were beginning to show real results that would, over time, lead to a reduction in skin cancer rates.

"The sun protection message is starting to cut through, with teens more aware of the risks of tanning and sunburn," Professor Olver said. "While these are encouraging results, we’ve still got a big job to convince the remaining 45% of teens to ditch the tan."

Good news from the survey was tempered by the finding that one in five teens was still getting burnt on a typical weekend in summer.

A particularly worrying aspect of the research, according to Professor Olver, was that 12 to 14 year-olds were more prone to sunburn than older teens (15-17), even though they were less likely to seek to tan. "This indicates that 12-14 year-olds are doing outdoor activities, which is a good thing, but they are neglecting to cover up," he said.

According to the Australasian College of Dermatologists’ Dr Phillip Artemi, skin damage is cumulative, with sun exposure in younger years contributing to the lifetime risk of skin cancer.

"The research shows attitudes are changing, which is great news", Dr Artemi said. "There are more than 10,300 cases of melanoma in Australia each year and it’s the most common cancer among people aged 15 to 44. We can expect this figure to drop over time as the trend for young people to avoid tanning continues to improve."

Australian Cricket Test Captain, Michael Clarke, who has had three skin cancers removed from his face, said he wished he had been more aware of the dangers when he was younger. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have been much more sun smart."

Source: Cancer Council