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Study reveals worrying trend in sun protection in Townsville’s V8 Supercars

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Women attending Townsville’s V8 Supercars event were found not to be wearing the right hats for sun protection and without continued efforts towards sun protection.

According to researchers at James Cook University’s College of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, many people attending Townsville’s V8 Supercars events are sun-smart, but women are not wearing the right hats to protect themselves from the sun.

Dr Simone Harrison, a principal research fellow at the university, stated that skin cancer incidence in Australia and New Zealand is much higher than in other countries with predominantly fair-skinned populations.

Dr Harrison revealed that the cost of treating skin cancer in Australia is significant, with skin cancer being the costliest of all cancers nationally. Despite sun-safety campaigns conducted in Australia since the 1980s, skin cancer incidence has continued to rise in all but the youngest age groups of people.

The researchers observed 1337 racegoers at the 2009 and 2013 Supercars events in Townsville, most of whom had lightly pigmented skin, and tallied those who wore hats and sun-smart clothing. They found that, while over 70% of people wore a hat, the use of sun-protective styles such as wide-brimmed, bucket, or legionnaires hats decreased from 29.2% to 18.6% between the two events, primarily because the use of sun-protective hats halved (from 28.7% to 14.0%) among females—who were less likely than men to wear any hat at all.

The researchers found that relatively few people wore sun-protective (three-quarter-length or full-length) sleeves, but their use more than doubled between 2009 and 2013. Additionally, more than 82% of males but only just over 69% of females wore sunglasses to protect their eyes at the 2013 event.

Dr Harrison emphasised the need for continued efforts towards skin cancer primary prevention through sun protection, especially in outdoor sporting settings, given Australians’ love of sport and the outdoors. Without continued action to improve prevention and early detection, it is estimated that between 2022 and 2030, a further 205,000 Australians will be diagnosed with melanoma, 14,000 of whom will die, resulting in costs of $AUD 8.7 billion and 136,000 years of life lost, even before considering those affected by keratinocyte carcinomas.

Source: James Cook University.

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