Did you know skin cancers account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers? The rate of skin cancer is increasing in Australia and around the world, and there are several reasons. Here at SunDoctors, two of the questions we’re most commonly asked are, “Why is skin cancer more prevalent today” and “Why is skin cancer so common in Australia?” We’re here to provide some answers.
The rising rates of skin cancer around the world
Many factors cause skin cancer to develop in skin cells, including damage by UV radiation and genetic makeup. However, between 95 and 99% of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. As ozone levels gradually deplete around the globe, we are exposed to more harmful UV radiation from the sun, which can lead to melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer yet also the most preventable, so improved awareness is hoped to reduce these rates over time.
Skin Cancer in Australia
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer globally, and it’s particularly common in Queensland. So why is skin cancer so high in Australia? Firstly, we’re a nation of nature lovers. Our weekends are filled with hiking, biking, fishing, swimming and playing outdoors, and many also work outside. While we enjoy a lifestyle much worldwide envy, we also expose ourselves to more UV radiation.
The other big factor is that the ozone layer over Australia is particularly thin, and this protective layer is believed to have depleted by approximately 5-9% since the 1960s. That means significantly higher rates of UV radiation for Aussies who are out in the sun. Although our sun safety awareness has improved over time, we’re still not as careful as possible.
Who can be at risk in Australia?
Every Australian has a risk of developing skin cancer. Your risk can be higher if you work outdoors or spend a lot of time outdoors, if your family has a history of skin cancer or if you’ve had skin cancers before. The fairer your skin, the higher the risk is likely to be, although all skin types can develop cancers. The risk also increases as we age.
What can I do to reduce the risk of skin cancer?
Protecting ourselves from the sun (and sunburn) is the simplest and most effective way to minimise our risk of developing skin cancer. That means slipping on a shirt, slopping on some 30+ factor sunscreen, slapping on a wide-brimmed hat, seeking shade whenever possible and sliding on a pair of sunnies. UV levels can still be high even on cool and overcast days, so we all must remain sun-safe throughout the year.
The second thing we should all do is get regular skin cancer checks. About one million skin checks are happening with doctors annually throughout Australia, but we could be doing better. The skin cancer check process is simple, efficient, and saves lives. It’s important to pay attention to the size, colour or shape of your moles and have these checked straight away if you notice any changes.
If you haven’t had a check in a while, call SunDoctors Skin Cancer Clinics on 13SKIN (13 75 46) now and book your skin cancer check with a professional close to you.