Wives to help spread sunscreen message

Feb 5 2015

Associate Professor Billie Bonevski

HMRI public health researchers are enlisting the help of wives in a bid to encourage older men to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide … and also get their skin checked annually by a doctor.

Associate Professor Billie Bonevski, the behavioural scientist for the National Skin Cancer Committee, says males over 55 years of age are a high priority because of the prevalence of melanomas and other skin cancers.

Recent research has also shown that Australian men are more likely than women to get sunburnt over summer.

“If we ask wives to tell their husbands to go and get checked, we figure the blokes might just listen to them more than listen to us,” Associate Professor Bonevski, from the University of Newcastle, said.

“With older men we are strongly advocating that they cover up with long sleeves and sunscreen and stay out of the sun during peak UV times. Getting your skin checked is also really important – the older you are, the more you need to keep on top of changes with your skin.”

New research released by Cancer Council Australia, which governs the National Skin Cancer Committee, shows that around 430,000 more Australian adults are getting sunburnt on weekends than they were four years ago, suggesting complacency about the dangers of excessive exposure to UV rays.

Almost 20 per cent of adults didn’t protect their skin from the sun when they spent more than an hour outside during summer.

Australian-based research has shown conclusively that sunscreens are highly effective at reducing skin cancer rates. Family GPs, Associate Professor Bonevski adds, are also well trained to check for skin lesions and possible skin cancers but partners may also monitor changes with skin blemishes.

“With SPF 30+ sunscreens 95 per cent of UV rays are blocked, so they’re fine for people to continue using. But with 50+ SPF sunscreens it increases to 98% protection,” Associate Professor Bonevski adds.

“People still need to reapply every few hours, which is one of the problems we have in Australia. Most of us are really good when setting off to the beach but forget about it for the rest of the day.”

The committee has found that spray-on products, despite their convenience, do not deliver a sufficient sunscreen barrier on the skin. They recommend pump dispensers or tubes, with the cream massaged into the skin.

Traditional products like zinc, including invisible zinc, remain effective: “As long as it has an SPF factor of more than 30 then go with it”.

*HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.