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Using data collected over a twenty-year period (1997-2016), a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology reports a reduction in melanoma incidence rates in South Australian young people.

The study, which looked at melanoma incidence rates in those aged 0 – 39 across Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, shows declining melanoma rates in all three states.

Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Kerry Rowlands said that the data is promising and shows the positive impact of programs like the SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program, which focuses on developing sun protection behaviours in young people.

“The earlier children start protecting their skin, the greater their chance of avoiding skin cancer later in life.”

“Cancer Council has a proud history in SunSmart messaging. Many South Australians, particularly those under 40 would be familiar with our call to ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’ to protect their skin and our beloved SunSmart icon Sid the Seagull,” she said.

“We have been committed to the SunSmart cause for decades and are pleased to see a decline in the rate of this deadly cancer, particularly in the under 40s.”

“We know that overexposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence significantly increases skin cancer risk in later life.”

“Cancer Council SA’s SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood program helps students to understand the link between UV and skin cancer and ultimately, educates them on how to reduce their future cancer risk,” she said.

The program, which focuses on the five sun protection measures of slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide, embeds strong sun protection practices into early childhood that will last into adulthood.

“We know that children’s skin is more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and a history of sunburns during childhood have been associated with increased melanoma risk,” said Ms Rowlands.

“If we can work together, I’m confident that we can continue to see melanoma rates decline amongst our young people and embed SunSmart practices in future generations.”

Minister for Education, Training and Skills Blair Boyer MP will join with Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Kerry Rowlands at Surrey Downs Primary School today to celebrate the success of the program and to remind the wider community of the importance of being SunSmart from a young age.

Cancer Council’s SunSmart School and Early Childhood Program has been running in South Australia for more than 20 years and with more than 800 sites currently recognised as SunSmart.

In the past year alone, the program protected more than 129,000 South Australian children.

Community members are encouraged to ask their education or care sites about their sun protection policy and ways they can support their community to achieve a SunSmart culture.

For more information on the program and to check the SunSmart status of education and care sites in SA visit the SunSmart program.