Australians love a sunburnt country as we lose slip, slop, slap ethos
LITTLE James Gannon, 3, and his brother Blake, 11 months, never go out in the sun without slipping on a shirt, slopping on sunscreen and slapping on a hat.
That's because their mother Sarah would never let them.
But a recent study has found fewer Australians are following sun safety rules because they are afraid of how it will make them look.
A New Zealand Journal of Public Health study found in 2010-11 hats were worn by 43 per cent of adults (down from 50 per cent in 2006-07) and only 23 per cent of teenagers (down from 38 per cent in 2003-04).
The problem, according to Cancer Council spokesman Terry Slevin, is that people pay too much attention to how they look and not enough to the risks on skin cancer.
"Cosmetic trends and fashion are powerful drivers of daily behaviour," he said.
"If we could come up with a hat design that doesn't generate hat hair we'd be squillionaires."
Ms Gannon remembers being one of those sun-ignorant teenagers; now she is determined to ensure her two sons don't follow suit.
There have been plenty of reasons to get out in the sun recently, with January becoming the hottest month in Australian history.
The study found that teens were most at risk, with more than one in five reporting to be sunburnt on weekends.s
Mr Slevin said there was an economic case for the government to quadruple its investment in skin cancer prevention.
While governments spend $500 million a year removing non melanoma skin cancers they spend just $5 million a year on prevention campaigns, he said.
"We could easily quadruple out investment in pregention and that investment would be returned fivefold," he said.
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Safety first: James Gannon and his little brother Blake have no complaints about covering up and staying sun safe while having fun in the playground. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS