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Why Is Skin Cancer So Common in Australia?

Did you know that skin cancers currently account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers? The rate of skin cancers is increasing in Australia and around the world and there are a number of 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
A number of factors causes 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 it’s hoped that improved awareness will reduce these rates over time.

Skin cancer in Australia
Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, 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 of us also work outside. While we enjoy a lifestyle that many around the world envy, we also expose ourselves to more UV radiation as a result.

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 awareness of sun safety has improved over time, we’re still not as careful as we could be.

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 need to remain sun safe throughout the year.

Beautiful mother and cute daughter on the beach. Sun protection infographics. Sun safety tips vector illustration.

The second thing we should all be doing is getting regular skin cancer checks. There are about one million skin checks happening with doctors every year throughout Australia, but we could be doing better. The skin cancer check process is simple, efficient and it 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, free call SunDoctors Skin Cancer Clinics on 13SKIN (13 75 46) now and book your skin cancer check with a professional close to you.