Cancer Council WA is urging all West Australians to brush up on their sun protection knowledge as new data reveals a record number of West Australians were treated at hospital emergency departments for severe sunburn during 2022.
Cancer Council WA’s SunSmart Manager, Sally Blane, said the data shows that urgent action is needed to ensure West Australians understand the dangers of UV radiation and the slip, slop, slap, seek and slide message.
“In 2022, 261 WA children and teenagers aged between 0 and 19 years sought medical help for sunburn in an emergency department,” said Ms Blane.
“This is triple the number of presentations compared to 2014 when 78 WA children and teenagers were treated in emergency.
“Teenagers especially are a priority population. They spend lots of time outdoors and not enough are adopting sun protection behaviours. In 2022, more than 150 young people aged between 10-19 needed emergency treatment.
“The damage caused in the early and teenage years also significantly increases the risks of deadly melanomas in later life.”
The figures from the Department of Health show the number of severe sunburn cases from 2021 to 2022 have increased in almost every other age group.
“The number of 20 – 29yrs treated for severe sunburn also increased, as did those aged 50 and over,” Ms Blane said.
“The only two age brackets that decreased in 2022 was for those in their 30s and 40s.”
Ms Blane said most West Australians are still not aware that the UV Index is the measure of sunburn risk, not temperature. The likelihood of sunburn is actually higher on cooler days, when the temperature is between 18 and 27 degrees as we get caught off guard with our sun protection routine.
“We need all West Australians to understand that sunburn is the result of damage to the skin. The single greatest risk factor for skin cancer and sunburn is over exposure to UV and it is largely preventable by adequately protecting yourself from the sun, even on cooler days” she said.
“We should be using all five methods of sun protection: broad brimmed hats, sunscreen, shade, sunglasses and clothing, whenever UV levels are 3 or above.”