NSW Unveils New Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy Amid Rising Youth Sunburn Rates

Skin cancer prevention
Photo credit: nsw.gov.au

With beaches in Coogee, Randwick, Maroubra and the rest of Sydney’s beaches drawing the summer crowd, a sobering statewide call warns of sunburn and skin cancer. Did you know that more than 800 sunburn cases flooded into emergency rooms across the state last year?

Read: Community Gathers in Coogee to Raise Awareness and Fight Melanoma

As concerning rates of sunburns in kids could spur Australia’s skin cancer epidemic, officials unveiled the NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2023 to 2030, emphasising safe sun habits.

Health Minister Ryan Park revealed some sobering statistics during the unveiling of the strategy at the Prince of Wales Hospital last November. The vast majority were children and adolescents.

Based on the data, last year’s 800 cases represents a 28 percent increase when compared to the previous financial year, which had around 640 people requiring care in the emergency department for sunburn. 

Photo credit: Kampus Production/Pexels

With unprotected sun exposure, melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, is also a very real risk.

“Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and by the end of the year, we anticipate close to 6,000 people in NSW will be diagnosed with this devastating cancer, ” Mr Park said. 

“Sun damage and skin cancers are highly preventable, and we’re encouraging the community to do really simple things like seeking shade when outdoors, wearing sunscreen, putting on a hat, sunglasses and protective clothing to safeguard themselves.

“Even mild exposure to the sun can lead to damage and I’m confident our latest Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy will help build on decades of skin cancer prevention work in NSW and save more lives.”

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The NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2023 to 2030 was developed by the Cancer Institute NSW in partnership with 20 organisations and experts across health, education, industry, sport and recreation, and 600 community members.

The strategy focuses on the importance of embedding skin cancer prevention strategies across the public, private and community sector; improving access to quality shade at work, school, play and public spaces; and increasing the adoption of sun protection behaviours.

Photo credit: Nathan Cowley/Pexels

NSW Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of Cancer Institute NSW, Professor Tracey O’Brien, says high sun exposure in the first 10 years of life more than doubles a person’s risk of developing melanoma skin cancer.

“Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and protecting our skin from the sun from a very young age, and into adulthood, is key to reducing our risk of skin cancer,” Prof. O’Brien said.

“When people think of skin cancer risk, they often think of a day at the beach, but in NSW, UV radiation levels are high 10 months of the year which is why its vital people protect their skin all year round, even on cool and cloudy days.

Member for Coogee Marjorie O’Neill said all UV exposure from the sun is causing damage to our skin and increasing our skin cancer risk.

“We’re fortunate to live in a sun-drenched country which is why remembering to use sun protection needs to be instinctive when we step outside, and not just when we’re at the beach,” Dr O’Neill said.

“Whenever we go for a walk, are at the park or are hanging the washing we need to protect our skin and teach our kids to the do the same.”

Read: Discover Gordons Bay, Home to Sydney’s Only Underwater Nature Trail

To learn more about the NSW Skin Cancer Prevention Strategy 2023 to 2030, visit cancer.nsw.gov.au.

Published 5-December-2023