Skin Cancer in Australia: What We Can Learn from our Friends Down Under

It is 2017 and it is estimated that 9,730 people will die this year of melanoma (American Cancer Society). The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies tanning beds (or "solariums" as they're known in some other countries) as a "Group 1 carcinogen – in the same category as tobacco and asbestos." ( Which is why Australia has made it ILLEGAL in most states to operate a commercial solarium. Yet in America you can still find tanning beds in the gym, the nail salon, the spa...they're everywhere. 

How did Australia get to where they are now? It took decades of campaigning. Since the 1980s, campaigns by the Cancer Council's SunSmart programs have helped change the way the country views sun protection. While incidences of melanoma are still on the rise, the number of cases involving young adults (under 40 years old) has declined. 

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide

  • First released in 1981 and re-launched in 2007, this is credited as one of the most successful campaigns in the country. A cartoon seagull named Sid dances on screen singing a catchy tune about protecting yourself from the sun's harmful rays. Sid encourages Australians to "Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses". While the video advocates for the use of sunscreen, it also pushes the importance of simply covering your skin (with a shirt, hat, sunglasses) and seeking shade whenever possible. Check out the video here

Clare Oliver: No Tan is Worth Dying for

  • Before passing away as a result of melanoma, Clare Oliver (age 26) shared her story. After spending her youth constantly seeking a tan, she used her final days to speak as to why a tan is not worth your life. Clare believed her use of tanning beds contributed to her diagnosis and wanted to share her story in order to warn others. Learn more about Clare's story and watch the video here

Although Australia has made great strides in sun protection awareness, it took a long time before any true change was seen. In order for America to make a significant change, we must make a conscious effort to not only seek awareness but fight against social norms. And we have to do it NOW. This idea that being tan means being beautiful and healthy must come to an end. Long sleeves aren't hot...they're COOL. 



Is there something you do every day to protect yourself from the sun? What campaigns for sun protection have you seen in your area? Tell us in the comments below!

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The following sources were utilized in this article:

Cancer Council Australia. "Campaigns and events". October 2017. 

Cancer Facts and Figures 2017. American Cancer Society. October 2017. 

 SunSmart. "Media and Campaigns". October 2017. 

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