Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in Australia and accounts for 80 per cent of all cancers diagnosed each year.
Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. More than 430,000 Australians are treated a year for skin cancers. Of these, over 10,500 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed. Each year there are around 1600 deaths from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
Preventing skin cancer
The major cause of skin cancer is too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Skin can burn in as little as 15 minutes in the summer sun so it is important to protect your skin from UV radiation.
Skin cancer is largely preventable. Be SunSmart. Protect yourself against sun damage and skin cancer by using a combination of these five steps:
Slip on protective clothing
Choose clothing that:
- Covers as much skin as possible e.g. long sleeves and high necks/collars.
- Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.
- Is dark in colour to absorb UV rays. White and lighter colours reflect UV onto skin.
- If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.
Slop on SPF30 or higher sunscreen
Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and water resistant.
Sunscreen should not be used to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun and should always be used with other forms of protection. Apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours.
Slap on a hat
A broad brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Caps and visors do not provide adequate protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric - if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen to increase your level of protection.
Make use of trees or built shade structures, or bring your own! Staying in the shade is an effective way to reduce sun exposure. Whatever you use for shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow and use other protection (such as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) to avoid reflected UV radiation from nearby surfaces.
Slide on some sunglasses
Sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent. Choose close-fitting wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Sunglasses are as important for children as they are for adults.
Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!
The Slip Slop Slap slogan has become institutionalised as the core message of Cancer Council’s SunSmart program. The campaign is widely credited as playing a key role in the dramatic shift in sun protection attitudes and behaviour over the past two decades. In 2007, the slogan was updated to Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide to reflect the importance of seeking shade and sliding on wrap around sunglasses to prevent sun damage.
National SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program
Because children are at school during peak ultraviolet radiation (UVR) times, they play a major role in minimising children’s exposure to UVR and providing a SunSmart environment which will positively influence long-term behaviours.
Since January 1999, Cancer Council Queensland has invited each primary school in Queensland to become a 'SunSmart School' as part of the free National SunSmart Schools Program. Schools are asked to complete a questionnaire and send it, along with a copy of their sun protection policy, to Cancer Council Queensland to be assessed.
Early Childhood Centres and Family Day Care Centres can also become registered SunSmart facilities.
Developing a SunSmart Policy
Developing and implementing a SunSmart (or Sun Protection) Policy is an excellent way of providing defined goals and clear statements about sun protection requirements, practices and behaviours within an organisation.
Schools – Given that students and staff are at school during peak UV times, schools play a major role in providing an environment where policies and procedures can positively influence long-term SunSmart behaviour.
Early childhood centres - A sun protection policy ensures that the centre is a safe and protective environment and that sun protection behaviours are integrated into daily activities, planning and procedures. A sun protection policy is also a requirement of the National Quality Framework.
Sports - While outdoor physical activity is beneficial and recommended for overall good health, high ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure increases skin cancer risk. With this in mind, sporting organisations should realise the need to support members, staff and volunteers by providing and promoting a SunSmart environment.
Workplaces - Workplaces are obligated to protect against known hazards to worker health and safety. With this in mind, workplaces play a major role in providing an environment to positively influence long-term SunSmart behaviour through providing and promoting a SunSmart environment.
For relevant policy consideration documents, information and support for your organisation please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SunSmart Grants Scheme
Sun Sound - a new sound for Summer!
Saving Our Skin DVD
The Saving Our Skin DVD is designed to assist with the promotion of the prevention and early detection of skin cancer. The DVD is appropriate to a wide audience. There are three modules on the DVD, each is eight minutes in length and aimed at:
- Outdoor workers
- The general community
- Schools and childcare settings
Each eight minute module is designed to give practical advice to individuals and organisations to reduce their risk of developing skin cancer through policy development and early detection. It is recommended for adult education purposes only.
You can view the DVD modules under the Information & Resources section on the Saving Our Skin page
General tips for being SunSmart
Remember to take extra care between 10am and 3pm when UV radiation is most intense.
Look out for the SunSmart UV Alert which tells you the time period in which you need to be SunSmart - it appears on the weather page of most daily newspapers and on the Bureau of Meteorology website.
- Bureau of Meteorology website or
- CCQ's Personal Protection brochure information about the UV Alert.
Select your current location in the UV Alert widget above to access real time information about UV levels in your local area.
If you have a lesion that doesn't heal, or a mole that has suddenly appeared, changed in size, thickness, shape, colour or has started to bleed, ask your doctor for a skin examination. Treatment is more likely to be successful if skin cancer is discovered early.
- Check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you notice any unusual skin changes.
- Information about vitamin D and daily sun exposure requirements.
- Different types of skin cancer information.
- How to use personal protection to save your skin from sun damage
The SunSmart app lets you know when you do and don't need sun protection, making it easier than ever to be smart about your sun exposure all year.
Find out more about the SunSmart App
Avoid using solariums or sunbeds, which emit harmful levels of UV radiation up to three to five times as strong as the summer midday sun.
Nanoparticles and sunscreen
Despite assertions to the contrary, there is no credible evidence that nanoparticles pose a risk to health.
The Queensland Skin Cancer Prevention Strategic Plan 2008-2013
The Queensland Skin Cancer Prevention Strategic Plan 2008-2013 is now in action in Queensland, with government, non-government, industry and community organisations working together to pave the way forward for skin cancer prevention in the state.
The Plan aims to reduce the incidence of skin cancer in Queensland by creating sustainable policy and environmental changes to ensure Queenslanders can be protected from the sun's ultraviolet radiation.
For more information regarding skin cancer, speak to your doctor or call the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.
The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our Disclaimer.