Fashion conscious Aussie teenagers are risking their health wearing skimpy clothing which could contribute to sunburn and the risk of skin cancer, researchers claimed on Monday.

A survey of 25,000 high school students found that cancer-aware behaviour such as wearing a hat and staying out of the sun, is on the decline, while the number of pupils getting sunburnt is on the rise.

In 1999, 80 per cent of students complained of sunburn, compared with 72 per cent in 1996 and 68 per cent in 1993.

The survey found one-third of the students were burnt between two and three times and 15 per cent of them had been burnt four times or more.

"Students were less likely to wear hats, use maximum protection sunscreen, wear sunglasses and clothing that covered most of their body," Cancer Council Australia spokesman Craig Sinclair said.

He suggested midriff tops, strappy dresses and mini-skirts could be to blame for burns suffered by 82 per cent of girls, and that boys were slightly less likely to get burnt because the fashion for them was long shorts and baggy T-shirts.

However, Mr Sinclair said the good thing about fashion was that teens tended to wear sunglasses more: "The survey results suggest that more work is needed to convince teenagers of the importance of protecting their skin.

"As they become more concerned with fashion trends and peer pressure, they start to ignore the lessons they learned in primary school," he added.