Australians have not remembered the Slip, Slop, Slap message when it comes to protecting themselves from the sun.
Australians have not remembered the Slip, Slop, Slap message when it comes to protecting themselves from the sun. Contributed

Slip, slop, slap: Why are we are not getting the message?

LAUNCHED in 1981, the Slip, Slop, Slap campaign for sun protection quickly became a mantra firmly entrenched in the minds of most Australians.

But while we are pretty good at slopping on the sunscreen, it seems we are increasingly forgetting to slip on some protective clothing.

This is worrying news given the most recent Cancer Institute data shows that melanoma of the skin accounted for the No.1 most common cancer type in the Northern Rivers between 2009 - 2013.

  • Between 2009-2013, Melanoma of the skin accounted for 18% of cases (Lismore), 18.3% (Ballina), 22% (Byron), 17.5% (Richmond), 17.2% (Kyogle)
  • Lismore, Richmond, Kyogle, Ballina and Byron LGA's all have higher Standardised Incidence Rates of Melanoma of the Skin than the NSW average

In the Northern NSW region alone, it was predicted 376 people would be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, with 42 deaths expected.

New Cancer Council research shows Aussies are forgetting to slip on a shirt to protect themselves from the sun and an alarming number of adults are getting sunburnt on summer weekends.

The latest Cancer Council National Sun Protection Survey shows overall the proportion of adults slipping on clothing to protect themselves from the sun has decreased from 19 per cent to 17 per cent in the last three years.

The statistics reveal more people are using sunscreen, but there had been no great improvement in the number of people using hats, sunglasses or shade as protection.

While the sunscreen use has increased, only 42 per cent of Australians regularly use sunscreen, and only 26 per cent seek out shade during activity.

Meanwhile the proportion of NSW adults who get sunburnt on summer weekends hasn't improved and now sits at 17 per cent - equivalent to more than 881,000 adults.

In light of the findings Cancer Council Australia and the Australasian College of Dermatologists are joining together this National Skin Cancer Action Week (19 - 25 November) to remind Australians how to best protect their skin.

Abby Wallace from Cancer Council NSW northern region, has expressed concern that sun protection behaviours among adults in the state had recently deteriorated, and that it reinforced the need for continued investment in skin cancer campaigns to ensure adults remain vigilant about reducing their UV exposure.

Ms Wallace also welcomed some of the positive news in the research.

"There has been a noticeable increase in the use of sunscreen among adults. Whilst this is wonderful news, there is still a lot of work to do in terms of educating our local community on the importance of adopting a combination of sun protection measures.

"We suspect Aussies are slopping on sunscreen while at the same time reducing their use of covering clothing and expecting to be protected all day long. Sunscreen is a great tool to help protect your skin, but it isn't a suit of armour. The motto remains the same - slip, slop, slap, seek shade and slide on sunglasses. Wearing covering clothing is one of the simplest and effective ways to protect your skin.”

Dr Andrew Miller, President, Australasian College of Dermatologists said thanks to previous public health campaigns Australians were well educated about the risks of skin cancer, but some parents seemed to be more focused on protecting their kids' skin than using sun protection themselves.

"The theme for this year's National Skin Cancer Action Week is Join the SunSmart Generation. We often see Australian parents protecting their children with rashies, hats, sunscreen and shade - while not protecting themselves well.”

Dr Miller also said that it was important for parents to remember that their own sun protection was also vital.

"Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime and it's never too late to protect their skin from further damage. We want to see more adults setting a good example and joining their children in being SunSmart.

"Melanoma rates in Australians aged 40 and under are dropping and the children of today are our most SunSmart generation ever. However, it's a real concern that sun protection behaviours overall don't seem to be improving and that over 881,000 NSW adults are putting themselves at risk of skin cancer by getting sunburnt on summer weekends.”