Touchless sunscreen dispensers and wristbands that detect ultraviolet rays are among the latest innovations Queensland is using to shed its tag as the world’s skin cancer capital.
The sun protection tools were demonstrated today when Queensland Health and Surf Life Saving Queensland announced their Sun Safe Partnership, which will help up to 1.2 million children protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet light.
Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Preventive Health Branch Mark West said the government was sponsoring the Sun Safe Partnership to the tune of $150,000.
“The Sunshine State’s lifestyle is the best in Australia but having year-round sunny weather also comes with risks,” Mr West said.
“Queensland has the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Each year, around 3,600 Queenslanders are diagnosed with this form of skin cancer and sadly, around 300 people die.
“But we can prevent melanoma and other forms of skin cancers by practising good sun safety – measures like wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sun-protective clothing and broad-spectrum sunscreen, and seeking shade, have been proven the risk significantly.
“We’re teaming up with Surf Life Saving Queensland to improve these types of behaviours, especially among young Queenslanders.”
Surf Life Saving Queensland CEO Dave Whimpey said promoting sun safety was an essential part of protecting beach-goers.
“Our organisation exists for people’s safety on our beaches,” he said.
“An important element of that is sun safety for our thousands of members who patrol each weekend and for the millions of beach-goers who visit Queensland beaches. We are excited to join with the Queensland Government to form a Sun Safety partnership, which will assist us in spreading the sun safety message even further.
“We have a responsibility to educate the next generation on the dangers of the sun and our Community Awareness team are doing this by speaking to more than 49,000 Queensland school students each year.”
QUT researcher Dr Elke Hacker, an expert in the use of technology to promote sun safe habits, said UV radiation was the main risk for skin cancer.
“Just one severe sunburn in childhood can double risk of a melanoma before the age of 40,” she said.
“We know childhood and adolescence are critical periods during which exposure to UVR contributes to skin cancer in later life and the amount of sun exposure received in the first 20 years is about half of our total lifetime sun exposure.
“That’s why sun protection in summer and all year should be a daily practice.”
Health data shows Queenslanders are still complacent when it comes to sun safety, with less than 25 per cent of the population using sun protection and almost 50 per cent getting sunburnt each year.
In 2020, more than two-thirds (68.7%) of Queensland children sustained their most recent sunburn during water-based activities.
The Sun Safe Partnership will reach an estimated 1.2 million children through SLSQ community programs including Beach Safe Schools, Inland Blackspot Waterways, Beach to Bush, Surf Crew and Little Lifesavers.
UV wristbands will be distributed at SLSQ events. The bands change colour when they are exposed to UV light, letting the wearer know they should seek shade or apply sunscreen.
The Sun Safe Partnership will also showcase an interactive digital sunscreen dispenser produced by advocacy group Danger Sun Overhead. The technology is touchless and COVID-safe.
SUN SAFETY FACTS:
• 841,000 adults and 399,000 children used sun protection methods
• 2.1 million adults and 394,000 children were sunburnt in the previous 12 months
• Adult males were 14% more likely to report sunburn than females
• Young people (18–34 years old) were at least four times more likely to report sunburn than older people (65 years and older)
• Older children aged 12–17 years were about 60% more likely to have been sunburnt than 5–7 year olds
• Young children were 3.4 times more likely to practice sun protection than older children
The health of Queenslanders 2018 – Report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland