Lets start from the beginning.

“A tan is not a sign of good health or wellbeing, despite many Australians referring to a ‘healthy tan’. Almost half of Australian adults still hold the misguided belief that a tan looks healthy.” – Cancer Council Australia

This sentiment, scary as it sounds, is exactly the issue that I’m trying to address, if not adamantly tackle. I could count on two hands the number of people I know how have been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer – although thankfully know of no fatalities. But I dare say that this is unusual and in Australian society, will become more so. Take my Dad’s fiancé, a personal example that I regularly draw on: one long-term ex-boyfriends from her youth was a strapping young Spanish boy with naturally dark olive skin, yet he was always meticulous about staying out of the sun and, if forced to be exposed to its harsh rays, would always cover up. He died of melanoma in his late 20s. Yet I look at so many of my friends who, at the sign of any sunshine, rush outdoors to the nearest area of unobstructed rays and lie. Often without sunscreen, always without protective clothing, never with a hat; only sheltered by their sunglasses (you’d look uncool without your shades, dah). And all to achieve that desired ‘I’ve just come back from the Bahamas’ look, all year round. Lets be real, no one (who I know anyway) can afford weekly trips to the Caribbean and frankly, I’m finding myself wonder more and more, why would you want to? When you look at Australia’s skin cancer stats it’s really, really, frightening:

Every year, in Australia:

  • Skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers
  • Between 95 and 99% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun
  • The incidence of skin cancer is 2-3 times the rates in Canada, the US and the UK.
  • Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70

[Cancer Council Australia, 2013]

We have a hot, harsh climate that we cant avoid at least a minimal level of exposure to through the carrying out of our daily lives; why then do we so many of us, particularly the youngsters, feel the need to bake ourselves at every other opportunity we get? It’s a social stigma that I find really interesting, not least because of its roots that date back centuries where initially pale skin was considered more beautiful and a sign of wealth. This trend changed along with the advance of industry technology so that pale skin was deemed a sign of poverty.

My focus, however, is the attitudes of Australian youth because, as I mentioned, it is something that is quite strikingly noticeable in my own life and experiences. Plus, the fact that it is young people who are particularly subscribing to this trend is most definitely reflected in this stat:

“Excluding non-melanoma skin cancer, melanoma is the most common cancer in Australians aged 15-44 years.”
[Cancer Council Australia, 2013]

So here I am, ready to make a stand against ‘fans of tans’, hoping to encourage the embrace of natural skin tones of all shades.

Cancer Council Australia, 2013, accessed September 11, 2013 <http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/skin-cancer.html>


4 thoughts on “Lets start from the beginning.

  1. This is extremely relevant! My sister went to the doctor’s just to check her moles and she had to have them removed which has left a few scars. GET YOUR MOLES CHECKED!

    • Thanks so much for your input Emma – it’s true, getting your skin checked is vital in our climate and something that many Aussies, particularly young people, tend to put off. Hopefully getting those moles removed was a reminder of how important it is to stay out of the sun where possible and think differently about trying to achieve that tan! Hopefully her results were all OK though!!

  2. This is a very well written piece on a very relevant subject. I think it’s extremely effective how you’ve stated your case at the start of the post and then backed it up with some really confronting statistics and quotes to support the cause. Since reading this post I’ve done some of my own research into the matter and have discovered in a report by Sun Smart in Melbourne that adolescents are putting themselves at an increased risk of skin cancer for the sake of a tan and not using adequate sun protection on summer weekends. According to the study “51% of Melbourne 12 to 17 year olds like to get a suntan and 14% are getting sunburnt on the weekend.” These results are extremely alarming and further display the attitude of youths on the issue, which shows the need for more avenues of information on skin cancer amongst young people.

  3. Really helpful stuff here. While I’m pale enough that a tan has never really been an option, I’ve always worried about my browner buddies risking their health for no good reason.

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