Can you avoid Australia’s ‘national cancer’?


Sunscreen innovators are bringing better products to market, hoping to prevent skin damage and cancer incidence.
Dion Agius, seen here competing in Victoria, in 2004, has been surfing all his life and understood the need for a better sunscreen. | Photo by Karen Wilson/ via Getty Images

What’s the price of a suntan? A lot more than the price of sunscreen as it turns out.

Often called our ‘national cancer’, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with approximately two in three Australians diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime. In addition, it is estimated that almost twice as many men as women will die from melanoma this year alone (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022).

Cancer Council Australia’s Director of Cancer Control Policy, Megan Varlow, says research indicates that Australian men in particular aren’t being safe in the sun, with almost half (47%) of men often or always spending time outside during peak UV hours throughout summer.

Professional surfer Dion Agius and Zepha Jackson are co-founders of Standard Procedure | Image source: Supplied

“This tells us that more needs to be done to remind people of the easy steps they can take to reduce their risk of skin cancer every day,” she says at the start of National Skin Cancer Action WeekTM.

Professional surfer Dion Agius and Zepha Jackson are co-founders of Standard Procedure, working with Jackson’s family to create sunscreen formulations and other skincare products at a Sunshine Coast factory in Queensland.

“I think there is definitely some room for improvement among surfers when it comes to skin protection.”

– Professional surfer Dion Agius, co-founder of Standard Procedure

“Zeph approached me some time ago and gave me these amazing sunscreen samples to try that her parents had been making. They’ve been perfecting their sunscreen formula for around 40 years on the Sunshine Coast in their own family factory,” says Agius.

“As soon as I tried it, I knew it was some of, if not the best sunscreen, I had ever used. I told her that I thought there wasn’t any sunscreen that felt really lightweight and nice to use every day but was robust enough to surf in for a long period of time, which is when you really need it the most. Once we had decided on the best version of the formula, we decided to start Standard Procedure.”

Agius says surfers can go either way when it comes to sun protection.

“Some people are really good at maintaining a regular routine and use sunscreen and zinc, and some people probably don’t take it seriously enough considering how much time we spend in the salt, wind and sun. It’s a hectic combination; the combo of all three together, especially here in Australia. I think there is definitely some room for improvement among surfers when it comes to skin protection.”

Sunscreen is the easiest thing for prevention, says Jackson, “prevention against premature ageing and sun damage to your skin’s appearance, but of course and even more importantly, skin cancer”.

Beauty products are embracing sun protection more and more. Samantha Brett is the founder of Naked Sundays. The SPF “BeautyScreen” company – a hybrid between sunscreen and skincare – recently polled 2000 millennials and found 70% of them don’t wear SPF every day, mostly because they perceive it as white and sticky.

“Naked Sundays was born to address this issue; a zero whitecast, invisible sunscreen brand that catered directly to millennials by making SPF fun, simple and good for your skin, and would work well with makeup. We’ve seen an overwhelming response from people who’ve never worn sunscreen before all of a sudden love and enjoy putting it on every single day.”

Samantha Brett is the founder of Naked Sundays: ‘Making SPF fun, simple and good for your skin.’ | Image source: Supplied