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