Australians are becoming “increasingly misinformed” about sunscreen, new research has showed
Latest statistics from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey, presented at the World Congress of Melanoma, show that only 55% of Australians understand that it is safe to use sunscreen every day.
This number is a drop from 61% in 2014; the survey also found that 17% of respondents were worried that sunscreens contained ingredients that could be harmful to health.
A fifth believed that regular sunscreen use would result in low vitamin D levels.
Craig Sinclair, Chair, Public Health Committee, Cancer Council Australia says that he is very concerned that more Australians don not trust sunscreen, even though the evidence is stronger than ever that it is safe and effective and can reduce skin cancer risk.
“Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Sunscreen has been proven to prevent skin cancer, including the most deadly type – melanoma,” he says.
“With an alarming number of Australians believing myths about sunscreen, it’s time to bust the myths and get the right information out there about sun protection.
“Sunscreens in Australia are strictly regulated by the Therapeutics Goods Administration to ensure that the ingredients they contain are safe and effective.
“Australians should be confident that they can use sunscreen on a daily basis – there is no evidence to suggest the ingredients are bad for your health.”
Mr Sinclair also points out that several studies have shown that sunscreen use in real life has minimal impact on Vitamin D levels over time.
“In summer most of us get enough Vitamin D through incidental sun exposure – deliberate excess sun exposure, even for those with Vitamin D deficiency, is never recommended,” he says.
“The biggest concern when it comes to sunscreen is that Australians aren’t applying it correctly and are getting sunburnt as a result.
“Other studies show that 85% of Australians don’t apply enough sunscreen. We also know many don’t apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading outdoors or don’t regularly reapply every two hours.”
Sunscreen offers the best protection from damaging UV when used alongside protective clothing, hats, shade and sunglasses, he says.
Many Australians don’t have a realistic picture of how much sunscreen to use, either; he reminded consumers that when applying sunscreen they need at least one teaspoon per limb, one for the front of the body, one for the back, one for the head.
“A full body application should be around 35ml, or seven teaspoons. It’s more than Australians think.”
Associate Professor Stephen Shumack from the Australasian College of Dermatologists stressed that sensitivities to sunscreen are very rare.
“A small number of Australians may experience sunscreen sensitivities that require follow-up with a health professional. Young babies in particular have sensitive skin – that’s why we don’t generally recommend widespread use of sunscreen in the first six months of life.
“The primary forms of sun protection should always be protective clothing, hats, shade and sunglasses for babies and children of any age. For older children, sunscreen can be used on the parts of the body not covered by clothing.
“If you do believe you have had a reaction, discontinue use and see a health professional who can help you identify the ingredient you are sensitive to. This will most likely be the fragrance or the preservative in the cream base.”