• Open Access

Monitoring public interest in solariums: variations in internet search volumes over time in Victoria

Authors


Correspondence to: Kimberley Dunstone, SunSmart Research and Evaluation Manager, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, 1 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053; e-mail: Kimberley.Dunstone@cancervic.org.au.

In Victoria each year, an estimated 51 new melanoma cases, 7 melanoma-related deaths and 294 new squamous cell carcinoma cases are attributable to solarium use.1 Multiple research methods have been used to explore local use;2–4 however, the practice of monitoring internet search volumes offers a further data source.

Google Insights allows the public to compare search volume patterns for specific search terms relative to the total number of searches on Google during that period. We analysed data from 2004 to 2012 for the key search criteria ‘solarium/s, sunbeds, tanning beds’, restricted to Victoria, Australia.

The recorded peaks of search traffic around spring each year are consistent with one of the main reasons for seeking a solarium tan: to prepare for a special event or holiday, most often during spring or the beginning of summer.4 This highlights the importance of focusing future education or awareness campaigns around this period.

An absence of spring search peaks in 2008 and 2009 is evident. Legislation was introduced in February 2008, following the highly publicised death of Clare Oliver from melanoma in 2007.5 Public awareness of the cancer risk of solaria increased significantly during this time,6 and the numbers of solariums decreased in the wake of permanent legislation in 2009.3

In more recent years, a spike in search numbers is again becoming evident in spring. This highlights the need to continue raising awareness of the dangers associated with solariums, particularly at this time of year when interest is at its peak. It has been hypothesised that the introduction of solarium legislation may have the unintended effect of assuaging public fears about solariums, and regulation could make the industry seem more acceptable.7 As the initial impact of legislation and associated news coverage appears to have lessened, now is the time to advocate for State and Territory Governments to follow the lead of New South Wales,8 South Australia9 and Victoria10 and ban solariums outright.

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[ Google search history on ‘solarium/s, sunbeds, tanning beds’ in Victoria, highlighting peaks in searches and key legislation dates (normalised scores relative to total search volume). ]