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How COVID-19 Has Made Skin Cancer More Deadly

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many industries, from forced closures of restaurants to limiting retail services and even forcing hospitals and aged care homes to revert to a skeleton staff. The flow-on effect of these impacts is widespread, with some being evident and immediate, and others not set to reveal themselves until years down the line. One of the biggest victims of this is the treatment and management of skin cancer.

The best preventer of skin cancer is early detection with the disease being curable if caught early enough. If proper steps are taken – skin cancer can be easily avoided. A person is at risk of developing skin cancer no matter what time of year or what is going on in the world. Cancer Australia explains that recently, with the constant state of lockdowns and restrictions, the rate at which people are getting their skin checked has lowered to a dangerous level. Where skin cancer specialists could trust patients to visit for their yearly check-ups or to get a suspicious mole looked at, more people are cancelling or avoiding their visit in fear of breaking the rules surrounding pandemic restrictions.

Additionally, with many people spending almost their entire year inside with only 1 hour of sunlight a day, they are assuming their risk of skin cancer is lessened. Unfortunately, a lower risk of skin cancer isn’t a perk of the pandemic. If your office window receives sunlight, if you drive to work or spend your workout time in the sun, your risk of UV exposure is still there. It is still important to keep your regular skin checks up to date.

Prevention is Better Than a Cure

It isn’t just skin cancer that is seeing a lack of early detection, with Cancer Australia reporting that there were almost 164,000 fewer diagnostic procedures performed during 2020 for 14 specific cancer types. The most alarming drops in healthcare overall have been in scans, blood tests and biopsies for cancer-related illnesses. This isn’t an indicator that suddenly people are getting cancer less often, but that they are detecting cancer too late, making it much harder to treat or impossible to cure. Researchers of Cancer Australia have discovered that previous numbers combined with this data suggest that up to 20,000 cancer cases may have been missed or undiagnosed during lockdown throughout 2020.

The Chief Executive of Cancer Australia, Dorothy Keefe explains, “the barriers we have set up to reduce the COVID-19 spread may have morphed into barriers for cancer diagnosis”. Concerningly, the most common type of cancer that has been undertreated and underexposed is Melanoma, with a 14% overall reduction of surgeries and treatments. This is potential because it is common for Melanomas to be noticed by a primary physician during a check-up for other concerns. This lack of face-to-face interaction and increase of telehealth appointments puts people at risk without the knowledgeable eye of their doctor. The concern is that the disease will lay dormant for potentially an extra 12 months or even 2 years, making eventual treatment difficult or even insurmountable.

Are You Being Proactive During the Pandemic?

Ultraviolet rays are responsible for the skin damage that leads to skin cancer. Long-wave ultraviolet A light (UVA) can penetrate deep into the skin even though small amounts of exposure and can result in melasma, wrinkles and depleted collagen. This damage can lead to skin cancer. Short-wave ultraviolet B light penetrates the upper layer of the skin and is responsible for sunburn which can lead to skin cancer. By the time you’re sunburnt, your skin is already in the danger zone, shouting out warning signs, but the damage has already been done. The dead skin cells caused by sunburn are what make skin cancer formation more likely. You can read more about what the sun can do to your skin to cause cancer here.

Regular skin checks are an essential part of life, especially when living in a country such as Australia, where warm and sunny days are guaranteed almost year-round. According to the Cancer Council, around 12,000 Australian men and women are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, but what is even more frightening than this figure is that many are currently going without a diagnosis. It is easy to perform a skin check yourself or with a partner, ensuring to check the face, neck, ears, scalp, front and back of torso, buttocks, arms, legs, hands, palms, feet, soles and between fingers and toes. This should be performed every three months on top of your annual visit with your GP.

Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer, but some are more susceptible, including those who have spent their childhood in the Australian sun, have many moles, are impacted by sunburn often, have fair skin, blue or green eyes, fair hair, previous family, or personal history of melanoma. Don’t let COVID-19 take anything else from your family or your life, and keep your annual skin checks up to date. Sun Doctors clinics are fully operational with strict COVID safety measures in place across NSW, QLD, VIC, and SA, and we are dedicated to the prevention, detection, and treatment of skin cancer.

To book your skin check today, contact us today.

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