A record-high number of Victorians required hospital treatment for sunburn in the past year, Cancer Council Victoria says.
According to data released through its SunSmart program, 355 people went to the emergency room with sunburn last financial year, compared with 216 the year before.
Almost 200 of the cases recorded last financial year were in January.
SunSmart’s Heather Walker said the figures were “alarming”.
“Aside from the really painful consequences of sunburn in the short term – and if you’re presenting to emergency then that really is quite severe – it’s the long-term damage that your skin’s suffering as a result,” she said.
“Sunburn increases the risk of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, and every time you get sunburn that damage adds up and every time you get tanned that damage adds up.”
The Cancer Council’s long running “slip, slop, slap” message, has been credited with changing attitudes to wearing a t-shirt, hat and sunscreen in the sun.
Later campaigns have added “seek and slide” to the message, referring to seeking shading and wearing sunglasses.
Not just slip, slop, slap
But the Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey showed around 671,000 Victorian adults were sunburnt on weekends alone during the 2016–17 summer.
Ms Walker said the message needed to be emphasised, particularly to young adults and adolescents.
“If you’ve got children, you tell them to brush their teeth once, you don’t really expect them to do it every night without prompting,” she said.
“It’s a similar thing here with the health messages around skin cancer … we need to keep reinforcing these messages, particularly for a young audience.”
Young people represented more than half of those needing emergency care for sunburn in 2016–17.
There were 114 people aged 10–19 needing emergency treatment, and 95 people aged 20–29