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News Update: Skin Cancer Rates Increase for Older Populations

A long life spent in one of the sunniest countries in the world sounds like a dream come true.

And for many people, it is, with the average life expectancy increasing and the quality of living improving for older Australians.

However, after spending decades without the availability of proper research and subsequent knowledge of how to protect themselves from the sun, many older Australians are discovering skin cancer as an unwelcomed guest in the sunset years of their life.

Unfortunately, older people are susceptible to skin cancer popping up after years' spent sun baking and enduring long days out in the blistering heat. 

Up until the Cancer Council’s slip slop slap campaign in the 1980s, many Australians were unaware of the dangers of the sun, resulting in olive oil clad ladies sprawled on beaches and shirtless men spending hours by the BBQ or running around a footy field.

"Skin cancer can rear its ugly head decades after the damage has already been done..."

It is an unfortunate fact that skin cancer can rear its ugly head decades after the damage has already been done, resulting in the older population today becoming very familiar with the removal of skin cancer. Despite the knowledge and understanding we now have; the rate of skin cancer continues to grow each year as those over 55 experience the downside of their years spent in the sun.

a lady wearing a towel applying sunscreen on her face

According to Associate Professor Catherine Olsen from the OIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, as more people are living longer and moving into older age groups, sun damage is manifesting on their skin from high UV exposure in their youth.

While the country is only heating over time and the population is growing, it is no surprise that skin cancer is beginning to become a household concern. Click here to read more about the research produced by the institute regarding older Australians and skin cancer. 

Why men need to pay attention…

Australia’s sunny climate has a dark side, with the UV rating being one of the highest in the world for most of the year across the country.

Even the Cancer Council’s own Chief Executive, Ashley Reid, is not immune to the effects of a lifetime spent in the sun without proper sun protection. A typical child of the 1970s, Ashley is now paying the price with one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, melanoma.

He is far from alone, with national Cancer Council research revealing that men are twice as likely to die from skin cancer than women, in fact, of the 1401 people who succumbed to skin cancer in 2020, 993 of them were men. Thankfully, Mr Reid is no longer in the dark about skin cancer, spending his days advocating for sun protection with accurate research, figures, and data, so he was able to detect his melanoma quickly and have it removed while still in its early stages.

Unfortunately, men who don’t know what to look for or who don’t understand the importance of early action are often the ones that become a number in devastating statistics. 

The good news…

Fortunately, the rate of melanoma is lower than the rate of keratinocyte cancers in the older generation. Otherwise known as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, keratinocyte cancers are highly treatable and less life-threatening than melanoma. Professor Olsen and her colleagues conducted a study that estimated around 69% of Australians would have at least one excision of a keratinocyte cancer in their lifetime. 

Although this type of cancer tends to grow slower than melanoma, it is still important to remove them as soon as you can. These types of cancers kill around 500 people every year, and if they are not treated properly, they can burrow into the face and make their way into the brain, forcing the patient to endure invasive surgery and radiation to eliminate the risk.

While the rate of keratinocyte cancers is declining in young people after a lifetime of exposure to sun safety campaigns, they only continue to increase in the older generation. 

It is never too late to start using sun protection.

Whether you were a child of the 60s spending your days outside playing until the streetlights came on, or you look back at a life spent working hard in the outdoors with no modern luxuries, you can improve your skin's relationship with the sun right away.

Even people in their 40s and older who use sun protection every day can significantly reduce their risk of skin cancer and lower their chance of developing it again if they’re predisposed. Even if you’ve never touched sunscreen in your life, it is never too late to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide. 

Worried about your skin? It’s not too late…

If you’re reading this and having flashbacks of a youth spent cooking away in the sun, you’re not alone and we’re not here to judge. We understand that the research simply wasn’t around until a couple of decades ago and as a result, we have seen all kinds of skin damage walk through our doors.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see the rate of skin cancer increase in the next 10 years as baby boomers and even generation X begin to experience the result of a youth spent on the sunny side. 

The positive news is that the high UV ratings and rates of skin cancer in Australia have birthed a gold standard of care in early diagnostics and treatment. Getting a skin check is now easier than ever.

The Gold Standard in Skin Diagnostics and Treatment

We are equipped now more than ever to not only pick up on your skin cancer early but treat it completely and effectively with quick turnarounds and comprehensive service. Thanks to our wide range of skin clinics across the country, you will have a Sun Doctors team near you who can not only diagnose and treat your skin but give you ultimate certainty and peace of mind as you begin your new sun protection routine. 

To book a skin check with our team, simply click here. If you’d like to chat with one of our team members to book your appointment, raise any concerns or enquire about what to expect in your check-up – simply call us on 13 SKIN (13 75 46). 

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