Rural Victorians 24% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma

Wednesday 22 February, 2012

SunSmart is warning Victorian farmers and rural outdoor workers to remain vigilant about using sun protection over the coming months as new figures released today show that Victorian residents in regional areas are 24% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than those in urban areas. [1]

SunSmart Manager, Sue Heward, explained: "The higher rates of skin cancer in rural Victoria are extremely concerning. Rural areas have a higher proportion of outdoor workers who are over-exposed to UV radiation from the sun, and a lower proportion of people born overseas than metropolitan areas." [2]

In order to highlight the seriousness of skin cancer to Victoria's rural community and remind farmers to protect themselves, SunSmart is re-launching its 'Protect your farm's most important asset – you' campaign.

Victorian farmer, Les Colman from Kotupna, was diagnosed with a merkel cell carcinoma at age 57 an aggressive form of skin cancer. After surgery Les endured weeks of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He was extremely unwell and could not return to normal working life on the farm.

"When my son took over the farm it was the saddest day of my life. Sure it may not happen to you. Just don't bet the farm on it".

Ms Heward said: "Treatments for skin cancer vary depending on the type of cancer, as well as how early it is detected and can require surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This may mean time off work, away from your farm and family."

"But skin cancer can be prevented by using a combination of sun protection steps including SPF 30+ sunscreen, broad brimmed hats, clothing that covers as much skin as possible and sunglasses. It's also a good idea, wherever possible, to stick to doing jobs in the shade or under cover through the middle of the day when the UV is at its most intense."

"It is critical to remember that sun protection is needed not just through the summer months, many people get caught out on cooler, cloudy days. For farmers and other outdoor workers, protection is even more essential given they are estimated to receive five to 10 times more UV exposure than indoor workers each year."

Les said: "If I have one message for farmers, it would be to not put things off and not put their families through what we've been through. It's so easy to prevent skin cancer, but can cost so much if you're not careful. Farmers really should make an effort to protect themselves".

The 'Protect your farm's most important asset you' campaign will run until the end of March 2012.

For more information about the campaign, go to or call SunSmart at 9635 5148.

Rock ‘n Role at the farm

To emphasise the importance of instilling SunSmart habits in kids from an early age by role modelling sun safe behaviour on the farm, SunSmart is giving away two pedal tractors for children from Deutz-Fahr Tractors and sunscreen.

Ms Heward said: "It's important for farmers to role model sun safe behaviour on the farm to encourage their children and grandchildren to get in the same good habits. We know that sun protection behaviour of children is heavily influenced by what their parents and grandparents do to protect themselves."

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1. Source:the Victorian Cancer Registry 2011

2. Studies have shown that people born in Australia who spend their childhood in our harsh UV environment have higher rates of melanoma than people who move here later in life. Skin type also plays a role, with higher risk of skin cancer among those with fair skin – immigration patterns mean that the proportion of people with darker skin types is lower in rural areas.

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