Cancer ad shown in cinemas often leaves young audiences in tears

CINEMA audiences are shocked - sometimes audibly - by a commercial about Wes Bonny, a ''normal young guy'' who died from melanoma aged 26.

According to tracking from the Cancer Institute NSW, 65 per cent of those who saw the ad, being shown throughout this summer, intended to increase their level of sun protection after watching it.

Melanoma is the most common cancer in 18 to 39-year-olds and, in all age groups, twice as many men as women die of the disease.

The advertisement, produced by the institute, features interviews with Bonny's parents, brother and friends, and was filmed not long after the young man died.

''When Wes was 23 he found a mole on his neck which turned out to be melanoma,'' his friend says in the advertisement. ''That was cut out but the melanoma had spread to his bloodstream … Getting a tan at the risk of getting melanoma, it just doesn't really make sense to me now after seeing Wes and just how hard he had it in the last few months of his life.''

Bonny, pictured, played cricket, loved the beach and water-skiing. Despite his outdoor lifestyle, he covered up the best he could and never went to the beach intending to get a tan.

Alecia Brooks from the Cancer Institute NSW, was part of the team that produced the advertisement which also airs on television and radio.

''For teenagers we could see there was an understanding of how melanoma happened, but less understanding that this was something that happened to young people,'' she said.

Ms Brooks acknowledges the advertisement is very sad, saying they get reports of people crying in the cinema when it is aired. But she says the reality is melanoma is the most common cancer for 18-39 year olds.

Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world and it is a particular problem for men. According to the Cancer Council Australia, more than twice as many men than women die from skin cancer - 1297 compared with 600 women in 2010-11. Young men are more likely to think their risk of skin cancer is low.

This story Cancer ad shown in cinemas often leaves young audiences in tears first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.