More patients seek treatment for severe sunburn

Statistics released by Queensland Health show young Queenslanders are increasing their risk of skin cancer, after hundreds of patients aged 18 to 29 presented to hospital emergency departments with severe sunburn.

How many patients are seeking urgent medical attention?

According to Executive Director of Queensland Health’s Preventative Health Branch Kaye Pulsford, Queenslanders aged 18 to 29 years accounted for more than a third of sunburn presentations in emergency departments.

“Between 2014 and 2017, emergency department presentations for sunburns increased by more than 50 per cent – the majority of these presentations were young people aged 18 to 29,” Ms Pulsford said.

“These statistics are extremely concerning given the rates of melanoma are 40 per cent higher in Queensland compared with the national average.

“Melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer amongst 15 to 39 year olds and the most common cause of cancer death among 20 to 39 year olds.”

How you can prevent sunburn

Although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it is preventable.

“Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the principal cause of skin cancer, and in Queensland UVR levels are high enough every day to damage our skin, even on cloudy days – so Queenslanders need to use sun safe behaviours every day of the year,” Ms Pulsford said.

“Given that young Queenslanders report the highest rates of sunburn, it’s not surprising that they are also the least likely to use sun protective behaviours.

“Appropriate use of sunscreen could reduce the prevalence of all skin cancers by 10 to 15 percent, and daily use could reduce the risk of melanoma by 75 percent – if it is correctly used.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan advises Queenslanders to remember the five S’s of sun safety – slip, slop, slap, seek and slide.

“Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world, with the majority of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers caused by UV damage,” Ms McMillan said.  

“The best defence against sunburn is multiple methods of protection – so when you put on your sunscreen, remember to add a hat, wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and find shade where possible.

“We recommend using at least one teaspoon of sunscreen on each limb, front and back of the torso, and face (including neck and ears), and reapplying every 2 hours or more frequently if swimming, exercising or towel drying.

“Sun protection is required when the UV Index is three and above which is all year round in Queensland – even in winter.”

Do you use daily sun protection?