Dec 13, 2012

As the costs of skin cancer treatment soar, it may be time for another instalment of Sid the Seagull

Is it time to resurrect Sid the Seagull and skin cancer prevention campaigns? That’s the suggestion from Dr Melissa Stoneham, in her latest report from the Journ

Melissa Sweet — Health journalist and <a href=Croakey co-ordinator" class="author__portrait">

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

Is it time to resurrect Sid the Seagull and skin cancer prevention campaigns?

That’s the suggestion from Dr Melissa Stoneham, in her latest report from the JournalWatch service of The Public Health Advocacy Institute WA.


Slip Slop Slap…do we need this iconic campaign to re-emerge?

Melissa Stoneham writes:

Remember Sid the Seagull? The life-size sun safe seagull who over thirty years first graced our television screens with his Slip, Slop, Slap message?

That advice, given back in the early 1980s was so logical, so simple, so easy to remember and it was widely followed.


Since that campaign, schools, kindergartens and even workplaces have got on board with the SunSmart message. We have seen the Me No Fry and the You Can Leave Your Hat On campaigns come and go….but in recent times it seems the SunSmart message has been diluted – almost missing from our TV screens.

Did we listen to Sid’s message and are we as sun safe today?

Well, according to a recent journal article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, we clearly can do better! The authors, led by Marloes Fransen, from the Department of Medicine at the University of Melbourne set out to report the burden and cost of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) treatments in Australia and to project estimates of numbers and costs to 2015.

Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), which includes basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), is the most common and expensive cancer in Australia. We also know that NMSC is caused by sun exposure.

But as NMSC are not required to be reported to cancer registries in Australia, it makes it very difficult to estimates the number of treatments and costs. To overcome this data gap, the authors used Medicare data to report the annual numbers of NMSC treatments between 1997 and 2010, to calculate the costs associated with these treatments and then predict the numbers and costs for the year 2015.

What they found was that between 1997 and 2010, Medicare claims were made for 412 493 and 767 347 NMSC treatments, respectively, representing an increase of 86%. The authors calculated that by 2015, the number of NMSC treatments will be 938 991. This represents a doubling in the number of NMSC treatments between 1997 and 2015.

Those most likely to seek treatment were people aged 55 years and over, but this is no surprise as the latency period for skin cancer lasts from several years to decades.

The study also reported the total treatment cost, adjusting for health inflation, was $511.0 million in 2010 with an estimate to increase to $703.0 million in 2015. Those living in Queensland and New South Wales accounted for most of the cost associated with treatment of NMSC.

With the escalating costs to both the community and government, it is time to ask for Sid the Seagull to come back?

• Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia. Marloes Fransen, Amalia Karahalios, Niyati Sharma, Dallas R English, Graham G Giles and Rodney D Sinclair. Med J Aust 2012; 197 (10): 565-568.


About JournalWatch

The Public Health Advocacy Institute WA (PHAIWA) JournalWatch service reviews 10 key public health journals on a monthly basis, providing a précis of articles that highlight key public health and advocacy related findings, with an emphasis on findings that can be readily translated into policy or practice.

The Journals reviewed include:

  • Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZJPH)
  • Journal of Public Health Policy (JPHP)
  • Health Promotion Journal of Australia (HPJA)
  • Medical Journal of Australia (MJA)
  • Lancet
  • Journal for Water Sanitation and Hygiene Development
  • Tobacco Control (TC)
  • American Journal of Public Health (AMJPH)
  • Health Promotion International (HPI)
  • American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM)

These reviews are then emailed to all JournalWatch subscribers and are placed on the PHAIWA website. To subscribe to Journal Watch go to


PHAIWA is an independent public health voice based within Curtin University, with a range of funding partners. The Institute aims to raise the public profile and understanding of public health, develop local networks and create a statewide umbrella organisation capable of influencing public health policy and political agendas. Visit our website at


Previous JournalWatch articles

Tackling the unhealthy food supply in disadvantaged communities

• Smoking at the movies, a global public health concern

• Sports clubs are winners when alcohol sponsorship is dropped

• Call for more research and planning to deal with public health challenges of mega events

• Environmental factors that promote cycling

• A focus on the corporate practices that contribute to poor health

 How much healthy food is sold at fast food restaurants?

• Why the world needs a dengue day

 Germany’s role in undermining tobacco control


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