Young Australians fail to heed sun warnings

November 30, 2011

Young Australians may have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world - and may be the hardest to persuade to take steps to protect themselves from the sun’s damaging rays, the West Australian reports.

Perth, Australia - Young Australians may have the highest incidence of melanoma in the world - and may be the hardest to persuade to take steps to protect themselves from the sun’s damaging rays, the West Australian reports.

A survey by the Cancer Council of Western Australia, which shows that many of the country’s youth are ignoring melanoma awareness efforts, identifies distinctions between young males’ and females’ indifference. According to the survey, Australian males aged 12 to 24 are less likely than females in that age group to use sunscreen (58 versus 68 percent, respectively) and sunglasses (36 versus 56 percent), while girls are less likely to use hats (18 versus 34 percent of boys) and inclined to wear less clothing in order get some sun on their skin (59 versus 46 percent of boys).

The survey notes that while the number of young people seeking a tan was decreasing, 41 percent of girls surveyed say they still attempt to get a tan compared with 12 percent of boys. Also of concern is the fact that among young people of both genders, the proportion of those who “always or usually” wear a hat has decreased from 48 percent in 2003-04 to 26 per cent in 2010-11.

The West Australian quotes Curtin University professor Peter Howat, Cancer Council director, as saying, “Evidence is showing in the last few years that a large proportion of our teenagers are just not covering themselves up despite all our efforts. It’s just not a priority in the lives of a lot of people, particularly young people who have so many other issues that they are concerned about.”

Professor Howat added that altering the sun-protection behavior of youth can best be achieved with a comprehensive approach similar to that used to increase awareness about the risks of using tobacco or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Melanoma is the most common cancer among young Australians, comprising more than double the number of cases of any other kind of cancer.

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