Source: The Mercury, 25 January, 1998, p.6


Teen skin cancer alarm

By LIBBY SUTHERLAND

   TASMANIAN teenagers 
are risking skin cancer 
in later life, the latest 
Tasmanian Cancer 
Council survey shows.

   The survey of almost 
2500 secondary school 
students revealed 72% 
of boys and 74% of 
girls between 12 and 17 
suffered from sunburn 
during the previous 
summer.

   An alarming 40% 
experienced severe 
sunburn which resulted 
in blisters.

   Although most students 
understood the risks of 
excessive exposure to 
solar ultraviolet 
radiation, it appears 
many are not taking the 
necessary precautions 
to prevent it.

   A Tasmanian doctor, 
who has treated a 
17-year- old skin cancer 
sufferer, said the survey 
results were disturbing.

   Tasmanian Cancer 
Council community 
programs manager 
Cathie Shirley said 
encouraging 
adolescents to adopt 
preventative measures 
was particularly 
difficult.

   "Peer-group pressure 
and risk-taking 
behaviour tends to 
occur between the ages 
of 12 and 17," she said.

   "We have got to turn 
around the myth that 
tanned skin is healthy 
skin.

   "They know all about 
the risks but translating 
the knowledge into 
action is where the 
problem comes in."

   In the survey more than 
80% of students agreed 
with the statement that 
skin cancer was a 
dangerous disease and 
understood they could 
get burnt on cloudy days.

   While 68% of boys said 
they usually or always 
wore a hat during the 
peak danger time 
between 11am and 3pm, 
just 39% of girls did. 
Baseball caps were by 
far the most popular 
favoured by 70% of 
boys and 55% of girls.

   Wide-brimmed hats, 
recommended to protect
the particularly sensitive 
skin on the ears and back 
of the neck, were used by 
just 8% of boys and 12% 
of girls.

   More girls than boys 
said they would 
deliberately wear fewer 
clothes to get more sun 
on their skin. 
Sunscreen emerged as 
the protection favoured 
by girls with SPF 15+ 
usually or always used 
by 72% of female 
respondents compared 
with 49% of boys.

   Mrs Shirley said there 
were lots of ifs and buts 
with sunscreen as it had 
a shelf life of only two 
years and had to be 
stored at less than 25° 
to remain effective.

   "We would push for 
staying out of the sun 
or to wear clothing," 
she said.

   "I think there is more
pressure on girls with the 
whole body image thing 
and how they are going to 
look if they protect 
themselves against the 
sun.

   'Young skin is 
particularly vulnerable 
to ultraviolet radiation.

   "What Australian 
research is showing 
now is excessive 
exposure during 
childhood and 
adolescence, up to the 
age of 20, greatly 
increases the chances of 
getting skin cancer.

   "It is the most common 
cause of cancer death for 
people in the 30-40 age 
group."

   Research had also 
shown two out of three 
Australians developed 
skin cancer at some 
stage of their lives and 
six or more cases of 
sunburn more than 
doubled the risk of 
getting melanoma.

   The cancer council 
spreads the message to 
children of all ages 
through its SunSmart 
Schools Program, 
which offers 
accreditation to schools 
who meet certain 
policy, behaviour, 
curricular and resource 
guidelines.

   Launceston GP and 
Tasmanian 
Co-operative Oncology 
Group convener Philip 
Clarke described the 
results as disturbing.

   "They are disturbing in 
the sense that a very 
significant group of 
people are still having 
excessive sun exposure.

   'Young children are not 
so bad. They are told 
what to do and they do 
it.

   "When they get a bit 
older, however, they 
tend to rebel. The first 
15 to 20 years of life is 
when we clock up the 
most hours of 
exposure," he said.

'Stylish', tan
beats risks

At Nutgrove Beach to get a 
"fashionable" tan are Hobart 
teenagers,from left, Sarah Rex, Georgia Wells, 
Marnie Canvin and Portia Dixon.

   LAZING in the midday sun at 
Nutgrove Beach, this group of 
Sandy Bay teenagers does not 
appear to have too many concerns 
about excessive sun exposure.

   While all but one was wearing 
all-over SPF 15+ sunblock, 
there was not a sun hat or shade 
umbrella in sight.

   They said they would probably 
be there all day but admitted to 
knowing the risks.

   "I have already had one mole 
removed from my lower back," 
17-year-old Sarah Rex said.

   Georgia Wells, 16, was equipped 
with 16+ and 30+ sunblock but 
like friend Marnie Canvin, 16, 
she said she normally wore a hat 
only for sport.

   "I like the look of a suntan but I 
don't think it's terribly import

   What about the risks?

   "They are kind of common 
knowledge," she said.

   Portia Dixon, 16, said she 
usually wore blockout only on 
her face.

   "I have had sunstroke a couple 
of times," she said.


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