Summer turns up the heat on skin cancer risk

Have you put off having your skin checked this year? If you have, you’re not alone.

New data shows there has been a 73.6% reduction in referrals for melanoma between April and June 2020 when compared to the same period over the past three years[1], with COVID-19 restrictions suspected to be a major cause of people putting off appointments.

This dramatic decline has clinicians and experts worried – particularly as we enter summer when Aussies are expected to flock to beaches, parks and beer gardens in record numbers after a long winter amid the restrictions of the pandemic.

Australia is leading the way when it comes to life-saving skin cancer research. But no matter how effective treatments get, early detection can be the difference between life and death.

“There is a real danger that we’ll see more severe cases of melanoma over the coming months and years as a result of these delayed diagnoses,” warns Professor Mark Shackleton, Chairman of Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials, and Director of Oncology at The Alfred.

“We’re all desperate to get out into the fresh air and reclaim some normality after what’s been a very long and tough year. But when you are outside this summer, be extra vigilant about being sun smart and protecting your skin. And if you’re waiting for the pandemic to pass to get your skin checked, don’t hold off any longer. It might just be the most important call you make.

Close to one Australian is diagnosed with melanoma every half hour, and more than 1700 Australians died of melanoma in 2019 alone[2] – many of them in the prime of their lives.

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials is one of the few dedicated melanoma and skin cancer clinical trials groups in the world. Working with talented researchers across Australia and around the globe, it develops and conducts clinical trials that are changing how we diagnose and treat melanoma and skin cancer.

[1]  Victorian Melanoma Service 2020, Impact of COVID-19 driving reduced melanoma referrals to a tertiary Australian centre. W. Berry, K. Tan, A, Haydon, M. Shackleton & V. Mar, Victorian Melanoma Service (unpubl.).

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, Australian Cancer Incidence and Mortality, AIHW, Canberra.

Media Release – Australians warned of unprecedented skin cancer risk