More Australians are ditching summer tans and embracing the slip, slop, slap message, according to a study of changing attitudes to skin cancer prevention.
Cancer Council research in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health shows adults and teenagers are not as fussed about getting a suntan and are spending less time outdoors, leading to a downturn in cases of weekend sunburn.
The research compares the results of a national sun protection survey in the summer of 2010-11 with those from surveys in 2003-04 and 2006-07.
The proportion of adults chasing a tan fell from 39 per cent in 2003-04 to 27 per cent in 2010-11 when reports of weekend sunburn fell from 18 per cent to 13 per cent.
Similar changes were found for teenagers.
Cancer Council Australia's skin cancer committee chairman Terry Slevin said sun protection behaviour such as wearing sunscreen and long-sleeved tops had increased over the seven years but mainly for adults.
There was less improvement in more recent years.
"The fact that people are reporting less intention to tan is encouraging and adds to the evidence that prevention and awareness campaigns are having an impact," he said.
"But one in five adolescents and one in eight adults still report getting sunburnt, so while attitudes towards tanning are improving, we are still seeing people getting too much sun.
"This means that about 363,000 adolescents and two million adults are still getting sunburnt on any given summer weekend."
Mr Slevin said the most common reasons people reported getting sunburnt were staying in the sun too long, forgetting to protect themselves or their sunscreen wore off.
Hats were still being shunned by many people, with only 23 per cent of adolescents and 45 per cent of adults wearing them outdoors.
Mr Slevin said this reinforced the need for continued reminders for Australians to protect themselves from the sun.
It was worrying that while improvements in behaviour were being made, the number of skin cancers reported was still increasing.
He said the number of non- melanoma skin cancers was expected to top 938,000 by 2015 and the cost of treating them estimated at more than $500 million a year.
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