A record number of people are presenting to the emergency room with sunburn-related injuries, especially in Victoria, where the number of extreme sunburn cases has tripled.
Hospital emergency data reveals that, in the state of Victoria, there were 355 people treated for severe sunburn in 2017, compared to 133 in 2005. That is an average of one person every day, in just one Australian state.
No matter how severe, sunburn is a sign of permanent skin cell damage caused by UV radiation. It is a precursor to the much more sinister threat of skin cancer.
According to the Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey, 2.7 million Australian adults got sunburnt on weekends during the 2016/17 summer, with many unaware that just 11 minutes in the sun can be enough to cause burning.
This concerning trend has prompted health professionals to continue to urge people to be sun smart, and they warn that sunscreen alone is not enough to prevent sunburn. People should also seek shade whenever they can and wear protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
UV radiation is most intense during the middle of the day. It cannot be seen or felt, so it can be harmful even on cloudy or cool days. It is therefore important to check the UV forecast before you head outside.
While sunburn is often uncomfortable, the long-term consequences are far more severe. More than 2,000 Australians die every year from melanoma, and 750,000 skin cancers are treated here annually.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by protecting yourself in the sun, minimising sun exposure, and regularly checking your moles. If you notice anything new or changing, seek a professional skin check.