Cancer Council working to protect our skin from sun damage

Skin cancer is the most common cancer experienced by Australians. Cancer Council researcher Dr Suzanne Dobbinson wants to understand how we can change our behaviours to minimise the risk of skin damage from the sun.

Two out of three Australians will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. These extraordinary numbers underscore just how important it is for all Australians to understand the risks of sun exposure and how they can change their behaviour to minimise that risk.

Dr Suzanne Dobbinson is a Senior Research Fellow at the Cancer Council Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer. Alongside her colleagues, Dr Dobbinson has been working to help protect Australians from UV for two decades through the Cancer Council's Sun Protection Surveys.

The Sun Protection Survey is internationally recognised as one of the best and longest running surveys on sun behaviours in the world. First conducted in Victoria, then nationally since 2003, it has provided information and measures to a number of research programs both here and overseas.

The overall purpose of this internationally recognised Survey is to provide a snapshot of the sun exposure and sun protection behaviours, tanning attitudes and sun burn rates of Australians with the ultimate aim of reducing skin cancer rates. Over time we can measure changes in how Australians feel about tanning, how many people experience sunburn and use sun protection to protect themselves from the sun on summer weekends.

With Cancer Council estimating that Australians spend more than $1billion per year treating skin cancer, how will having this information help us to reduce the risk and incidence of skin cancer?

Firstly, the information collected through the survey provides much needed evidence to show what is really happening in our community, measuring and identifying the gaps when it comes to Australian's use of sun protection.

Having up-to-date information is essential for Government and organisations when developing and allocating services and policies for health. Whilst declining melanoma rates amongst young people are demonstrating the enormous power of prevention campaigns, there is still much to be done.

By measuring and understanding sun behaviour, we can tailor skin cancer education programs effectively and give people the tools to manage their own sun behaviour and choices.

Secondly, and most importantly, the Survey helps organisations like Cancer Council design education and awareness campaigns that target those people at high risk of skin cancer.

Two out of three Australians develop skin cancer so more needs to be done before it’s too late for the current generation.

For Cancer Council researchers like Dr Dobbinson, profiling the results of the National Sun Protection Survey enables the community to be reminded of just how important sun safety is, with the ultimate aim of reducing the impact of skin cancer on our community.

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