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  • More sun smarts required for early detection

    25 November 2016

    It’s National Skin Cancer Action Week and Cancer Council SA is putting the spotlight on the importance of early detection of skin cancers following new South Australian research revealing almost 3 in 5 South Australians are not checking their skin.

    Results from a new Cancer Council Survey indicate that the number of South Australians not checking their skin in the previous 12 months (for suspicious spots that may be skin cancer) has been steadily increasing over the past 5 years and is currently at almost 60% (it was under 50% in 2010).

    Adding to this concern is that the same survey revealed one in three South Australians reported getting one or more sunburns last summer, increasing their risk of developing skin cancer.

    Cancer Council SA Manager of Cancer Prevention, Joanne Rayner, said that with summer on the doorstep, it is a timely reminder for everyone to regularly check their skin.

    “With the summer weather now upon us, more focus will shift towards skin protection, but it is also important for people to monitor the health of their skin,” Ms Rayner said.

    “Always protect your skin when UV levels are 3 and above and get to know what your skin looks like, what freckles and moles you have so you can spot any changes. Ask your partner or close friend or family member to check areas of your skin that you can’t see yourself for skin changes.

    “Given that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, it is concerning that this latest data indicates an increasing decline in people regularly checking their skin.  A sunburn or suntan may fade but the damage lasts a lifetime and the earlier any skin changes can be detected the better the outcome.

    “UV damage all adds up and every time a person spends time unprotected in the sun, it increases their risk of skin cancer - a lesson many older Australians are now learning.”

    One person now experiencing the impact of not protecting his skin is his younger years is Rob Rodenburg. Mr Rodenburg is currently having skin cancers removed following years of exposure to the sun.

    “Like most people my age, our youth was spent soaking up the sun during the summer months. No thought was given to sun protection because sunburn wasn’t a problem back then in the late 50s and early 60s,” Mr Rodenburg said.

    “Basal cell carcinoma’s started to appear about 15 years ago, first on my back, then on my nose and then on my ear, which has resulted in day surgery and more focus on sun protection.

    “Speaking as a man, men will generally resist being proactive about protecting against sunburn. This means that I need to regularly check my own skin and see my GP when I notice anything changing so that skin cancers can be dealt with before they cause too much damage.”

    “It also means protecting my skin when I’m outside with sunscreen, clothing and a shady hat.”

    Local Dermatologist, Dr Karen Koh, said that this new data raised some important issues.

    “Early detection of skin cancer, particularly melanoma, is important and may just save your life,” Dr Koh said.

    “The earlier a skin cancer can be diagnosed the better the treatment outcomes. Look for changes in any new or existing spots, freckles or moles that are looking different in colour shape or size. 

    “I encourage everyone to check their skin regularly and to see their GP if they notice changes. Those people who are working outdoors or spend time in the sun as part of recreational pursuits need to be extra vigilant.”

    Ms Rayner added that National Skin Cancer Action Week is an important time to raise awareness about the dangers of the sun’s UV levels and taking action to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

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