The growing popularity of beach huts can be frustrating for lifeguards who monitor the coast, but the Cancer Council says it’s a sign that more people are sheltering from the sun, but warns that UV radiation can still affect those under shelter.
- Anne Crust of the Cancer Council says the growing number of beachy shades is encouraging.
- She warns that bathers need to use other methods of sun protection as well.
- More people die from skin cancer than road traffic accidents in Queensland each year
Chair of the council’s skin cancer committee, Professor Anne Cust, said bringing portable shade during a visit to the beach was a good option, but people should take extra precautions.
“Portable shade or existing structures are a great way to protect yourself from the dangers of UV radiation,” said Professor Cust.
“But it’s just one of the things we can do to stay safe in the sun. You’ll still get some UV radiation from the glare.
“You still have to do the other aspects of sliding, tilting, slapping, seeking and sliding.”
Along with looking for shade, this also includes wearing protective clothing, putting on sunscreen, putting on a hat, and putting on some sunglasses.
Huts foiling lifeguards
Queensland surf lifeguards said shelters set up too close together on crowded beaches were making shore access difficult and blocking visibility.
“We are very happy to see people using beach huts for shade, but obviously it is a concern if the lifeguards cannot see people,” said Professor Cust.
“Hopefully they can figure out a way to safely monitor people in the water while people are still using beach huts.
“We have so many beaches in Australia. I hope there’s enough space for everyone.”
Professor Cust added that bathers should be careful that the huts do not cause them to spend too much time exposed to the elements.
“They definitely need to use other forms of sun protection because they are still being exposed to some UV radiation and, of course, they don’t spend all their time under the hut.
“[They’re] swim on the beach.”
calls to action
Australia has the highest skin cancer rates in the world, with over 2,000 people dying from the preventable disease each year.
The disease is estimated to cost the Australian healthcare system over $1.7 billion a year.
But while Australia leads the way in skin cancer rates globally, Queensland is the country’s capital for the disease.
The situation is so bad that more Queenslanders die from skin cancer than road traffic accidents each year, with skin cancer rates around 40% higher than in the rest of Australia.
This led scientists at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the University of Queensland to set a target of reducing the incidence of skin cancer by 5% by 2030 and 25% by 2050.
They aim for around half of all Queenslanders to apply sunscreen daily and wear a wide-brimmed hat outdoors.
They also want a 20% reduction in the percentage of people who report sunburn.
Queensland Co-Chair of Skin Cancer Prevention Professor Rachel Neale said the targets were ambitious but there were signs that skin cancer rates were stabilizing among some age groups.
But she said more needs to be done to promote solar safety messages.
“We run the risk that if we don’t continue, this plateau will stop and we could see it rise again,” said Professor Neale.
“We need to make sure we continue with that message now.”
She said the three groups of greatest concern are teenagers, outdoor workers and sports people.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done there,” said Professor Neale.