We all know that we should wear sun protection creams and lotions when we go out in the sun, and that it is especially important to protect little ones. But the results of a 30 year study in sunny Queensland, Australia, have really brought home the importance using sun protection to prevent skin cancer.
Why being Sun smart works
Queensland may have the highest rates of melanomas of anywhere in the world, caused by over exposure to the sun. However, the good news is that they also have one of the most successful public health campaigns too.
The ‘Slip, Slop, Slap,’ campaign, to promote the use of sun protection, has been running for 18 years, and has produced some remarkable results. Melanomas in teenagers and young adults have dropped by 5% every year since the 1990s. In 1996, there were 25 cases of melanoma per 100,000 people aged 20 to 24 in Queensland, yet by 2010, this had dropped to just 14.
Similar success has also been seen in other skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas, across a wide range of ages.
A changing culture
Professor Adele Green, who led a 30 year study tracking skin cancer rates, has been impressed with the results. “This has been one of the most successful cancer prevention campaigns ever,” she commented. “Australians now appreciate that the sun is dangerous as well as wonderful.”
While we may not quite get Queensland levels of sunshine here in Britain, we cannot ignore the success of the Australian campaign. Protecting ourselves, and our children, from over exposure to harmful levels of sunshine can make a real difference to skin cancer rates, both in youth and in later life.
As the ‘slip, slap, slop’ campaign shows, protecting yourself and your family from the sun is as easy as slapping on the right sun protection. In most cases, a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 will be enough. SPF 15 stops around 93% of the damaging UV rays. For small children, or people with lighter or more sensitive skin, a higher factor, such as SPF 30 can be used, which blocks up to 97% of UV rays. It is important to maintain sun protection coverage, and you should always reapply regularly, especially after you or your children have been swimming.
As Queensland has proved, a little slip, slap, slop can go a long way to keeping you and your family healthy for years to come.