Slip Slop Slap, Seek & Slide

Image: Shy Girl by RolfVenema, CC license

With summer on our horizon in the northern hemisphere, it is an ideal time to reflect on the precautions that must be taken to reduce the risk of skin cancer incidence by reducing our exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Wallingford and colleagues recently addressed the melanoma incidence rate in young people under 25 years in both Australia and England. Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer with 2 out of 3 people developing one of the forms of skin cancer by the age of 70. Wallingford and colleagues found that the overall incidence rate of melanoma (the most dangerous form) in adolescents and young adults under 25 in Australian was double that of the same population in England, 2.2 per 100,000 versus 1.1 per 100,000 respectively. However an interesting finding of their study was that the incidence rate of melanomas in Australians under 25 years of age was declining, whereas in England the rate was increasing. The authors suggest that these declining rates are due to the highly successful sun smart programmes nationwide as well as government enforced initiatives in Australian primary schools.

As an Australian, growing up with sun smart campaigns was a way of life. Australia has robust and hard hitting campaigns on sun safety. However, what it has taught this blogger is to be very sun aware, for which I am very grateful. In the 80’s we had the Australian Cancer Council’s famous Slip Slop Slap campaign (slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat), which later included Seek and Slide (seek shade and slide on sunglasses). In primary school, the phrase ‘No Hat, No Play’ meant we sat on the bench in the shade if we didn’t have a hat at school, and instead watched our friends having a good time in the sun, with appropriate sun protection.

Now that I live in England those continuous sunny days, whatever the season, are certainly many miles away. I can now see first-hand how exciting it is when the sun finally does shine bright in summer and we can experience the joy of leaving those dreary grey days behind for a few months. However, I have oftentimes been alarmed at how relaxed attitudes are to sun protection here. Seeking holiday destinations based on how dark a tan people will achieve and the more frequent use of tanning beds is contradictory of my ingrained upbringing of sun safety, and puts people at risk of harmful UVR exposure.

The most recent European Code against Cancer’s 4th edition on UVR and cancer recommends “Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use Sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.” As summer approaches the northern hemisphere, we should bear in mind the sun smart campaigners and strive to protect ourselves against the harmful UVR of the sun, and reduce the likelihood of developing skin cancer by reducing the number of times we allow ourselves to get burnt. A tan is not worth dying for. Tans will fade. Skin cancer does not.

 

Clare Berry

Clare Berry

Scientific Project Coordinator at Imperial College London
Clare Berry is a Scientific Project Coordinator at Imperial College, and takes on a project management role for the EPIC Cohort. Working from one of EPIC’s coordination centres, she manages the general day-to-day running of the cohort.

Research Interests: Clare Berry's background in research is diverse, including research into ovarian cancer, breast cancer, mammary gland biology and finally preterm neonate research and ventilation. After leaving the bench side for a more managerial role, she continues to show a keen interest in cancer research, and through the EPIC community is able to work alongside exceptional scientists making tangible public health impact through their discoveries.
Clare Berry

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