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Melanoma - look after the skin you’re in

Release Date: 

02/03/2017

News Type: 

  • Media Releases

Melanoma remains one of the top four cancers affecting Australians each year. During Melanoma March*Cancer Australia is calling on Australians to better protect their skin from sun exposure and reduce their risk for melanoma.

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, up to 12 times the estimated average global rate. 

Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO, Cancer Australia, said that ultra-violet radiation due to sun exposure had been estimated to cause around 95% of melanoma cases in Australia. 

“Melanoma is one of the most preventable cancers, yet results from Cancer Australia’s Check Your Cancer Risk interactive online tool show that many Australians are still missing key steps to protect their skin when outdoors, such as seeking shade, covering their skin, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and using SPF30+ sun screen,” said Dr Zorbas.

“Women who used Check Your Cancer Risk were more likely than men to seek shade, wear sunglasses and use SPF30+ sunscreen, but were less likely to cover their skin or wear a hat.”

Ultra-violet radiation is a Group 1 carcinogen which causes melanoma and other types of skin cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. Excessive childhood sun exposure may impart a particularly high risk for developing melanoma. 

 “A national survey** shows that around 1 in 7 adults in Australia aged 18-69 years, and, of concern, 1 in 4 adolescents (aged 12-17 years) who responded, reported getting sunburnt on summer weekends.

“As there is good evidence of increased risk of developing melanoma from being sunburnt at a young age, it’s important to get the sun protection message through to young Australians in particular. 

“Despite clear evidence and awareness of the risks associated with sun exposure, people of all ages continue to place themselves at increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers by not taking simple measures to protect their skin from ultra-violet rays,” said Dr Zorbas.

In Australia in 2017, it is estimated that around 14,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin.

The most common symptoms of melanoma include:

  • a new spot on the skin, or a spot that is changing in size, shape or colour
  • moles that have features of the ‘ABCDE’ rule:
     - Asymmetry – the 2 sides of the mole do not match
     - Border irregularity – the mole has irregular edges
     - Colour – the mole is not the same colour throughout
     - Diameter – the mole is wider than about 6 mm (although some melanomas are smaller than this)
     - Evolving – the mole has changed in size, shape, colour or texture during the past few weeks or months
  • a sore that does not heal
  • itching, scaling, bleeding, oozing, swelling or pain in a mole
  • spread of pigment from a spot into the surrounding skin.

For more information:

*Melanoma March is an initiative of the Melanoma Institute of Australia.
**Source:
Cancer Council Victoria, National Sun Protection Surveys, 2003-4 to 2013