Sunburn still a burning issue for Queenslanders

Cancer Council has issued an urgent warning for Queenslanders to stay safe in the sun, with nearly 60 per cent of adults and 64 per cent of children reporting being sunburnt in the past year.

The staggering figures were released last week in the 2016 Chief Health Officer’s report, forecasting a grim future for Queenslanders who don’t take action to prevent skin cancer.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Nicole Border urged Queenslanders to get serious about protecting their skin this National Skin Cancer Action Week (November 20-26).

“With 2.6 million[1] Queenslanders reporting being sunburnt in a 12-month period, we are concerned Queenslanders are putting their health at risk,” Ms Border said.

“Sunburn is a sign of irreparable damage to the skin, and affects the health of our skin in both the short and long term.

“Evidence suggests that childhood sun exposure also contributes significantly to a lifetime risk of skin cancers.

“It’s imperative for parents to model SunSmart behaviours and ensure their children have the best possible protection from the sun at all times.”

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the data regarding sunburn rates in the 2016 Chief Health Officer report is concerning.

“Exposure to high UVR early in life doubles your risk of developing melanoma,” Dr Young said.

“That’s why it’s disappointing to see that so many Queenslanders, including children and young people, are failing to use adequate sun protection.

“I’m encouraging all Queenslanders, particularly parents and young people, to get serious about protecting their skin and to use the five SunSmart behaviours, whenever they or children in their care are outside this summer.”

Around 3600 melanoma and 324,000 non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed across the state each year, and tragically more than 390 people die from melanoma.

Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey revealed too few Queenslanders were using a combination of all five sun protection measures.

Ms Border said the National Skin Cancer Action Week theme of My #SunSmart5 was an apt reminder to stay SunSmart.

“Only 21 per cent[2] of Queensland adults reported using three or more sun protection measures during summer weekends, ignoring the fact that Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world,” Ms Border said.

“There’s no doubt that with only 26 per cent of adults remembering to slap on a wide-brimmed hat and just 19 per cent wearing a long-sleeved top, Queenslanders are putting themselves at risk of a potentially deadly skin cancer.

“The data shows the lack of broad brim hats and clothing is translating to common sunburnt places – the face, head, nose, or ears, along with the arms and hands.

“Sunscreen alone isn’t enough – we need to make the effort to do all we can to protect ourselves when out and about.

“We recommend Queenslanders abide by all five sun protective recommendations – Slip on protective clothing, Slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunnies.”

Sun protection is required when the UV Index is 3 and above. In Queensland, the UV Index is 3 and above all year round, so Cancer Council Queensland encourages sun protection through every season.

Early detection is also vital.

“While prevention through sun protection remains key to avoiding skin cancer, early detection is especially vital, particularly for older Queenslanders who are being diagnosed today due to exposure in early adulthood,” Ms Border said.

“If we detect melanoma at its earliest stages, before it spreads, we have a much better chance of beating the disease before it takes hold.

“It’s imperative that people get to know their own skin – if you notice a new spot or lesion, or a spot or lesion change in shape, colour or size – visit your GP immediately.

“While annual check-ups are a must, it remains critically important that any skin changes are checked by a GP or specialist immediately.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or 13 11 20.


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Lisa Maynard,
Senior Media Advisor,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5171
Mobile: 0488 015 702


About National Skin Cancer Week:
Each year Cancer Council and the Australasian College of Dermatologists come together for National Skin Cancer Action Week. This year the theme is My #SunSmart5 and focuses on reminding people to use five forms of sun protection to help reduce their skin cancer risk. A combination of these measures, along with getting to know your skin and regularly checking so you can pick up on any changes, are the key to reducing your skin cancer risk.

Queenslanders can get involved this National Skin Cancer Action Week by:

  • Sharing a photo of themselves using 5 forms of sun protection with the hashtag #SunSmart5;
  • Following Cancer Council Queensland on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and sharing social media posts during the week;
  • Putting posters up at work, home or at school to highlight the importance of sun protection;
  • Getting familiar with their skin and if they notice any changes, contacting a GP immediately.