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Young Queenslanders increase risk of skin cancer

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Young Queenslanders are increasing their risk for developing skin cancer, with hundreds of people aged 18 to 29 presenting to emergency departments across the state with severe sunburn each year.

Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Preventative Health Branch Kaye Pulsford said sunburn rates were significantly higher amongst Queenslanders aged 18 to 29 years, accounting for more than a third of emergency department sunburn presentations.

“Between 2014 and 2017, emergency department presentations for sunburns increased by more than 50 per cent – the majority of these presentations were young people aged 18 to 29,” Ms Pulsford said.

“These statistics are extremely concerning given the rates of melanoma are 40 per cent higher in Queensland compared with the national average.

“Melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among 15 to 39 year olds and the most common cause of cancer death among 20 to 39 year olds.

“While it is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is preventable – however we are concerned young Queenslanders are not heeding the warnings.

“Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the principal cause of skin cancer, and in Queensland UVR levels are high enough every day to damage our skin, even on cloudy days – so Queenslanders need to use sun safe behaviours every day of the year.”

Ms Pulsford said National Sunscreen Day (May 27) was an important reminder to make sun safety a priority and for Queenslanders to lather up, all year round.

“Given that young Queenslanders report the highest rates of sunburn, it’s not surprising that they are also the least likely to use sun protective behaviours,” she said.

“Appropriate use of sunscreen could reduce the prevalence of all skin cancers by 10 to 15 percent, and daily use could reduce the risk of melanoma by 75 percent – if it is correctly used.

“Today on National Sunscreen Day, we are urging young Queenslanders to make sun safety a priority, to reduce the risk of sun cancers and to avoid a trip to the emergency department”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan reminded Queenslanders to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.  

“Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world, with the majority of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers caused by UV damage,” Ms McMillan said.

“The best defence against sunburn is multiple methods of protection – so when you put on your sunscreen, remember to add a hat, wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and find shade where possible.

“We recommend using at least one teaspoon of sunscreen on each limb, front and back of the torso, and face (including neck and ears), and reapplying every 2 hours or more frequently if swimming, exercising or towel drying.

“Sun protection is required when the UV Index is three and above which is all year round in Queensland – even in winter.”

Emergency department presentations for sunburn 2014-2017

Year Total presentations
2014 235
2015 280
2016 343
2017 356

Emergency department presentations for sunburn (2014-2017) – Aged 18-29 years

Year Total presentations
2014 68
2015 107
2016 120
2017 126

Media contact: +61 7 3708 5376

Last updated: 25 May 2018