30/01/2017 1:28 PM AEDT | Updated 30/01/2017 1:32 PM AEDT

The Devastating Truth About Sun-Bronzed 60s Kids Is Yet To Be Seen

Despite our slip, slop, slap dedication, melanoma deaths won't decrease until 2050.

We didn't know the dangers of UV overexposure until the late 70s.
George Marks via Getty Images
We didn't know the dangers of UV overexposure until the late 70s.

If you were young in the 60s, you'll remember being spritzed with tanning oil at the beach, seeing newborn babies intentionally exposed to UV rays and bright ads promoting a 'healthy' tan.

Unfortunately, these memories also mean you're part of a generation that didn't know about melanoma risk, with deadly consequences that are yet to be seen.


New research into Australian, U.S. and Swedish attitudes to tanning predict people born between 1900-1960 will be at highest risk of dying from melanoma than any other generations.

While we now know the devastating, delayed effect sun damage can have on the body, France's International Prevention Research Institute Professor Philippe Autier said these generations were ignorant.

"These beliefs were boosted by observations that exposure to ultraviolet light and sunshine could heal some skin infections and rickets, and by the discovery of vitamin D," Autier said.

Constance Bannister Corp via Getty Images
Fizzy drink, sunshine and mum. What a day.

"It was common for babies and school children to be treated with commercial UV radiation-emitting devices and exposed, unclothed, to the midday sun.

"This fashion faded in the 1960s as effective treatments, such as vaccines and antibiotics, became available and people became aware that sun exposure and sunburn during childhood were strong risk factors for developing skin cancer in later life."

How does melanoma come about?

Australia and New Zealand have the highest melanoma rates in the world. It's a form of cancer that develops in the skin's pigment cells caused by overexposure to UV radiation.

More than 13,000 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma in Australia in 2016.
Melanoma represents 2 percent of all skin cancers, but causes 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.

It's usually picked up through a mole check.

Source: Melanoma Institute Australia

The study, announced at the European Cancer Congress 2017, predicted death rates from melanoma would peak around 2015 for Australian men and 1990 for Australian women, compared to 2005 and 1995 for US men and women, and around 2010 in both Swedish men and women depending on when the sun safety message was picked up.

The study also predicted that by 2050, the global death rates from malignant melanoma would decrease from current levels.

"As time passes, melanoma deaths will become steadily rarer in people younger than 50 years, and after 2050, practically all melanoma deaths will occur in people over the age of 70."

George Marks
Ignorance is bliss.

For example, the study showed that in Australia, the numbers of men dying from the disease would increase from 1007 in 2010 to 1354 in 2030, then falling back to 1124 in 2050. In women they would increase from 410 in 2010 to 570 in 2030, falling back to 544 in 2050.

"Generations that have been over-exposed to high UV doses keep the high probability of developing a deadly melanoma at some stage in their lives," he said.

"The good news is that the risk declines rapidly as skin protection increases, and that effective treatments are starting to be available."