Offentliggjort torsdag d. 5. maj 2011
When the Danish Cancer Society mentioned their intention to hold an international Conference on Skin Cancer prevention in partnership with their Australian colleagues, I gave them my immediate support. I have been looking forward to this event for several years and considering the significance of this conference I wanted to somehow be involved, despite being on maternity leave.
So naturally, I’m delighted to be here today at the closing of the ‘1st international Conference on UV and skin Cancer Prevention’ and to mark the opening of the fifth annual Danish Sun Safety campaign. Skin cancer is a global challenge. It is hard to believe, given how prevalent skin cancer is around the world, that such a conference has not been held before.
I’m pleased to see that leading international experts and professionals in UV and skin cancer prevention have come together here in Copenhagen, not only from Denmark and Australia, but from all over the world, to share knowledge and best practice with the common aim of reducing the global burden of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to attend more of the conference, but I have been briefed on the discussions and findings. Simply put - we know that too much sun exposure is damaging and can lead to skin cancer and we know how to prevent it. But how do we communicate it? I would like to briefly mention communication as a fundamental tool in our global challenge against skin cancer.
I grew up in Australia with sun safe campaigns like ‘Slip Slop Slap’ – slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat. (And I’m not saying that I have always adhered to the warnings, we all feel good with a little colour....) However, this long-running campaign proved to be extremely successful as an effective way to communicate the dangers and preventive measures that should be taken in the sun. Australia is known for its sun and unfortunately, also for its high rate of skin cancer. As most people from Australia, I have ‘respect’ for the sun and was quite surprised, when I first came to Denmark, to discover a very different attitude to the sun. Yes, Denmark is not considered a sunny country, but today skin cancer is the most frequent form of cancer affecting 9,000 Danes every year – and this number is increasing.
Up until recently, the Danes have not seriously considered or been educated in the damaging effects of too much sun. The winters are long here, very long and as soon as the sun has some warmth we, like flowers, bath in the glorious sun and when I’ve suggested the need to be a little careful, I’ve been met with responses such as; it overcast, you can’t get sunburnt, it’s not that warm, I put sunscreen on this morning (from a person who has been out all day at the beach and swimming) or summer is so short, it’s not like living in Spain where you’re exposed almost all year round.
Over the past four years, the Danish Cancer Society together with the philanthropic foundation Trygfonden have been working hard to educate the Danish population, on the dangers of too much sun exposure and solariums, prevention of skin cancer and how to be safe in the sun, through campaigns like the Danish Sun Safety campaign ‘Skru ned for solen mellem 12 & 15’. As patron, I’m delighted to be able to say that in just four years we have experienced a lot of success. Parents, professionals and volunteers are increasingly taking responsibility for educating the Danish population and encouraging healthy sun habits.
Awareness of the campaign’s sun protection message is very high. More than 8 out of 10 remember the campaign and sun protection has become a frequent topic in the news. The positive results achieved also include a significant reduction in solarium use ‑ in just four years the number of solarium users between the age of 15-19 has dropped from one out of two, to one out of three.
The campaign’s success can also be attributed to the many strategic and commercial partners who have taken responsibility and contributed actively.
Personally, I have also noticed a positive change in people’s awareness of the sun’s damaging effects and a change in their sun habits.
Communication and education work. Discussions from the conference showed that there was agreement in the need to communicate clearer priorities with respect to sun safety advice to the general public.
You found that finding shade in UV peak hours should have priority in communicating sun advice. As private individuals, we need to establish shade in our gardens and yards and you emphasised how important it is that municipalities and the corporate world support this by establishing shade in public areas such as playgrounds, parks, squares, beaches, schools and institutions. Inspired by the UV-prevention programme the largest municipality in Denmark – Copenhagen Municipality – yesterday, started planting the first of 100 000 trees to provide more shade to citizens and tourists, and at the same time create a more pleasant environment in our beautiful capital city.
Another good example, are Sun Smart schools in Australia where part of the sun smart selection criteria is the provision of shade in the school grounds. Also, here in Denmark a large number of kindergartens have implemented sun protection guidelines which include shade.
Protection with hats and clothing and sunscreen were also considered a priority in communicating sun advice. In most countries, sunscreen is considered by the general population as the most important sun safety advice. It was interesting to learn at this conference that sunscreen and how we use it needs to be communicated in much greater detail. In order to be effective, it has to be used correctly. Alarmingly, sunscreen is often used as an excuse to stay longer in the sun and with too little, being applied too late. This type of behaviour leads to sunburn and sunburn leads to skin cancer, especially melanoma.
Another tool, I would like too briefly mention is the UV index. Using this index means that regardless of our location, we are able to know how powerful or in other words, how damaging the sun is at a particular time. We know that when the UV index is three or above we need to take precautionary measures. It was satisfying to hear that many countries have started using the UV index in their daily weather forecasts. However, stating the expected UV index is not enough. It is important that those presenting weather forecasts help to inform and educate the population about the UV index and how it differs depending on time of the year, geographic location and height above sea level, clouds and air particles.
Here it is also important to mention the positive results documented on the use of the UV index at leisure activities such as; sporting facilities, public swimming pools and at sailing clubs. This was actually one of the key messages in Denmark’s Sun Safety campaign last year.
During the last few days you have had the opportunity to hear from leading international experts on the newest developments in skin cancer prevention and had the opportunity to share experiences and knowledge that are fundamental in campaign initiatives aimed at educating target groups on how to be safe in the sun.
Skin cancer prevention is, as I said earlier, a global challenge. The organisers of this conference hope that the event has provided a platform for you all to broaden your network. An international network is invaluable in creating effective and new prevention campaigns with the common goal of reducing skin cancer in our countries.
In the years to come, it will be interesting to see how this International Conference on UV and Skin Cancer Prevention will influence your work. Preventing skin cancer is a long term project. Changing attitudes and behaviour requires continual commitment and dedication.
This international forum is not only a relevant but, a solid platform to launch Denmark’s fifth annual Sun Safety Campaign. I hope that all the knowledge, expertise, and goodwill gathered her in Copenhagen will enhance and support its success.
It is with great pleasure that I open Denmark’s sun safety campaign 2011: ‘Skru ned for Solen mellem 12 og 15.