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Melanoma specialists and Australians of the Year warn nation’s tanning culture is ‘killing us’


The 2024 Australians of the Year have warned the nation’s tanning culture is “killing us”, but that hasn’t stopped of people hitting the beach on a scorching Australia Day

During their acceptance speech on Thursday night, melanoma research and treatment pioneers, Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer said “when it comes to tanning, we [Australians] are swimming outside the flags”.

“Thousands of Aussies will be soaking up the sun working on their tans, or as we see it, brewing their melanomas,” Professor Long said.

“Our bronzed Aussie culture is actually killing us.”

According to the Cancer Council, Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with about two out of three Australians diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70.

The Australians Of The Year say when people are sunbaking they are brewing their melanomas.(AAP: Mick Tsikas)

This Australia Day, several heatwave warnings have been issued across four of the country’s eight jurisdictions.

At Clovelly Beach in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where the temperature is forecast to peak at about 36 degrees Celsius on Friday, the tanning culture was clearly on display.

Among those were the Gonzalez brothers, with two of them, including the youngest, telling the ABC they weren’t worried about the risks of skin cancer and melanoma.

“I don’t really care that much, I don’t think about it at my age, when I’m older maybe,” Zach Gonzalez said.

“Looks nice when you have a tan,” younger brother, Ethan said.

Hannah Cartwright and Alice West, both from the United Kingdom said they travelled to Australia specifically because of the warm weather and the beaches.

“The sun, the beach, it’s literally our dream – we love tanning,” Ms West said.

Hannah (left) and Alice, both from the UK, say they love tanning.(ABC News: Jessica Rendall)

But Ms Cartwright told the ABC she believed Australians were very conscious when it came to wearing sunscreen and regular skin check-ups.

“I feel like in England we don’t get to talk about it [sun safety] that much, whereas here I feel like they have check ups and you can just drop in and get your skin checked,” she said.

“We actually might do that before we leave.”

For Max Intonato, sun safety has come a long way since everyone used to cover themselves in coconut oil before heading to the beach.

But Mr Intonato said that tanning remained a big part of Australian culture.

“We like to get our gear off and we bake in the sun — it’s getting pretty bad,” he said.

“I’ve had a few skin cancers cut off not long ago, I tend to keep a shirt on.”

Sarah Yamagata says Australia has a long way to go to fix its tanning culture.(ABC News: Steve Keen)

At Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast, 49-year-old lifeguard Troy Muller has also recently had a melanoma cut out.

“I’ve just had one actually removed from the top of my head. I’ve actually got some stitches in there right now,” Mr Muller said.

Before heading into the water, Sarah Yamagata is trying to reinforce sun safety to her son.

Ms Yamagata believes that Australia has a “long way to go” to fix its tanning culture.

“I think there’s been an in-built culture where we all want to look healthy and bronze and beautiful down on the beach,” Ms Yamagata said.

“I do think it’s slowly changing especially with the younger generation. I think they’re a lot more aware of the risk.”



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