With skin cancer rates on the rise for those living in rural and regional areas, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials (MASC Trials) and Melanoma Patients Australia have teamed up to launch Self-Skin Checks, No Regrets, an Australian-first campaign to reduce the toll of one of Australia’s deadliest cancers – melanoma.
Self-Skin Checks, No Regrets encourages rural and regional Australians aged 60+ to regularly check their skin for unusual spots, moles, or lesions, and to access the latest resources, patient stories and skin check guides online.
In 2021, an estimated 8,000 Australians in regional areas were diagnosed with melanoma, and this is expected to rise dramatically to over 11,000 annually by 2030.
The campaign is targeting regional and rural communities and particularly men, who are twice as likely than women to die from melanoma. The Cancer Council shows this can be attributed to their attitudes towards the sun and higher levels of sun safety complacency.
Skin cancer can occur at any age, however, many older people living in regional and rural areas have an increased risk of melanoma due to longer unprotected UV radiation exposure and a history of burning during childhood.
Melanoma Patients Australia CEO Victoria Beedle said, “Empowering high risk older Australians in rural and regional areas, with the right knowledge to act early, will help reduce melanoma incidence for this often-forgotten community and significantly improve melanoma survival rates.”
COVID-19 lockdowns have created a barrier for Aussies – particularly living remotely – in accessing their GP or hospitals for routine and follow up appointments, contributing to an increase in skin cancer rates – according to a recent Cancer Australia report. The report identified a 14% reduction in the number of Medicare services utilised for melanoma checks in 2020, highlighting how critical skin checks are for saving lives.
The good news is research reveals more than two out of three (69%) rural Australians have detected their own skin cancer. When found early at stage 1, survival outcomes improve significantly, (99% at stage 1 vs 26% at stage 4).
According to A/Prof Victoria Mar, a MASC Trials Board Member and IMAGE Trial Chief Investigator, “While most of us know sun exposure is a high-risk factor for skin cancer, it’s still not widely acknowledged that blistering sunburns at a young age can increase melanoma risk by 80%. This initiative is incredibly important because there is little awareness about the importance of checking skin at an older age, with current skin cancer campaign messaging aimed at younger generations.”
“Asking a partner or friend to help fully check the skin is critical to identify and detect early signs that may be hard to see. Online educational resources, particularly for those living remotely, also make it much easier to identify unusual spots, moles, or lesions. You can also learn about skin cancer and find support networks to ask the right questions,” she added.
Daily sun smart measures for every Australian are critical but particularly for those in regional and rural areas. For more information on melanoma and how to detect unusual spots, moles or lesions please visit Self-Skin Checks, No Regrets.
Supporting People with Cancer Project
The Supporting People with Cancer Project, lead by MASC Trials, is a patient and consumer centred education initiative aimed at helping melanoma and skin cancer patients living in regional and rural Australia. The initiative included a consumer survey to investigate knowledge gaps, attitudes and behaviours towards melanoma diagnosis and treatment amongst regional and rural Australians. The project also aimed to understand how access to skin cancer support could be improved, and to build a network of patient advocates. The outcomes of the consumer survey informed the development and delivery of Self-Skin Checks, No Regrets. To read the outcomes of the consumer survey and learn more about the project, click Supporting People with Cancer Project.