Australia has one of the highest skin cancer incidence and mortality rates in the world. The reason for these high rates is due in part to the high ambient UV radiation levels, combined with a predominantly susceptible fair-skinned population.

To address this problem, since 1980, Australians have been exposed to social marketing campaigns like SunSmart to raise awareness of skin cancer prevention. These campaigns have used advocacy to influence legislative reforms and mass media alongside interventions in schools, workplaces, and in the community to motivate sun protective behavior.

As a result of these interventions it can be demonstrated that social marketing campaigns can be a very effective method to not only motivate behavior change, reduce sunburn, and increase awareness but more importantly, reduce melanoma rates. In addition to this, we have been able to demonstrate that for every $1 the government invests in skin cancer prevention over a 20-year period, it will yield a $2.30 return. This makes skin cancer control a remarkably good investment in public health. However, long-term investment in this area is required otherwise any population gains in behavior are very likely to be quickly eroded.

In more recent years, skin cancer prevention programs worldwide have faced significant challenges in particular from the sunbed industry as well as increased awareness by the general population of vitamin D and its potential positive health benefits.

To address these issues, Australia now has a comprehensive approach to manage sunbed operations that include legislative requirements to restrict under 18 access, ban people with skin type 1, and the licensing of operators. Due to these intervention and increased awareness, there has been a decrease of up to 50% in the number of sunbed operators in Australian cities, a downturn not seen anywhere else in the world.

In addition to this, considerable effort has gone into managing the issues associated with vitamin D to the point now where the SunSmart program is an authoritative voice to advise people when they should use sun protection, but also when they should not.

Citation Information: Cancer Prev Res 2010;3(12 Suppl):PL05-05.