The risk of cancer increases with age, and the number of adults seeking treatment is increasing dramatically, in line with our ageing population. Of all cancers, skin cancer is by far the most common in Australians. The total number of new skin cancers diagnosed – both melanoma and non-melanoma – amounts to about 80 per cent of all new cancers diagnosed each year overall*.
Australia has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70*. Around 434,000 Australians are treated for non-melanoma skin cancer annually* – which is more than 1,000 people every day.
In times past, we were not as aware of the dangers of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light – both natural and artificial – as we are today. Now we know there is no such thing as a ‘healthy tan’ and more than 95 per cent of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun*.
Not surprisingly, outdoor workers such as farmers, forestry workers and builders, who have spent their working life in the sun, often without adequate protection, present in the highest risk category.
The prevalence of skin cancer is an epidemic – and with the arrival in retirement years of the baby-boomers, who enjoyed their halcyon days soaking up the sun, it’s only really just starting.
Certainly, if we are not careful when we are young, it will come back to haunt us when we are older. The good news is, if skin cancers are identified early, they can usually be cured. But if ignored, the consequences can be more serious.
Sometimes people come in to have a single mole checked, only to find that another lesion, lump or mole that they haven’t considered, is of much greater concern.
*Cancer Council Australia – Skin cancer facts and figures, updated March 2014.
At the Austin Clinic our skin cancer doctors are Dr Lishuang Chen, Dr Harold Judelman and Dr Susan Austin.