Melanoma rates among men in regional Victoria high and on the rise

Monday 6 September, 2021

New SunSmart campaign urges men ‘Don’t delay. Save your skin’ 

New data shows a significant increase in melanoma rates in men living in regional Victoria over the last decade, prompting the launch of a new SunSmart public awareness campaign, Don’t delay. Save your skin. 

Data from the Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) showed a significant increase in melanoma rates among men living in regional Victoria, with an average of a 34% increase in diagnoses over the last 10 years (2198 in 2010–2014 to 2946 in 2015–2019).  

When compared to men living in metropolitan Melbourne and women living in regional Victoria, men in regional Victoria are diagnosed with melanoma at a much higher rate (Table 1).  

Funded by the Victorian Government, the campaign has launched across regional TV networks to provide an important reminder for men in regional areas to get to know their skin and be vigilant about seeing a GP should they notice anything new or changing.  

The key message is ‘The sooner skin cancer is found, the easier it is to treat’.  

Heather Walker, Head of SunSmart, said with such high rates of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – in regional Victoria it was critical that men are reminded of the seriousness of skin cancer and the importance of finding it early.   

“In 2019 we saw nearly 300 deaths from melanoma in Victoria and alarmingly, twice as many men as women died from the disease.  

“The reality is that skin cancer can – and does – kill people. The most aggressive forms of melanoma can spread to vital organs like the brain and lungs quickly. Once it’s spread, the prognosis and treatment required can be devastating,” Ms Walker said.  

The ad depicts an adult male anxiously waiting for his test results after putting off seeing his doctor. He reflects on his loved ones and what’s at stake. The scenario is a relatable one for many men who may put off a skin check out of concern for wasting their doctor’s time. Ms Walker says the concern is misplaced and she hopes the message ‘don’t delay’ resonates.  

“Finding skin cancer early is vital. Spending 15 minutes at an appointment being told you don’t have skin cancer is much better than putting your life at risk by waiting. Skin cancer can become deadly much faster than a lot of people realise.    

“The best way of finding skin cancer early is by getting to know your skin and what’s normal for you. If you see something new or changing, don’t delay, see your GP immediately,” Ms Walker said.  

The Victorian Government investment in the awareness campaign forms just one part of a broader skin cancer strategy across Victoria that includes the upskilling of general practitioners, particularly in regional areas.  

This investment in early detection of skin cancer aims to both raise awareness amongst the public and better educate and equip GPs at the frontline in diagnosing and triaging skin cancer presentations, which will ultimately help to save lives. 

Ms Walker said with UV on the rise this month in Victoria it’s important to remember it’s never too late to reduce your risk of skin cancer.  

“When the UV is 3 and above from mid-August through to April use the five forms of sun protection. That’s Slip on clothing, Slop on sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brim hat, Seek shade and Slide on sunnies.” Ms Walker said.  

The multi-channel SunSmart Don’t delay. Save your skin campaign is running from August 22 through to the start of October.  

Visit sunsmart.com.au/save-your-skin 


Matt's story 

Regional Victorian Matt Vaughan is all too familiar with the seriousness of skin cancer.   

At just 37 years Matt has been diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, discovering in June the skin cancer that started in his groin has now spread to his spine (L4 and L5).   

As a single parent to 7-year-old Nixon, Matt’s greatest fears are suddenly very real.  

“You hear the statistics of recovery and reoccurrence at each stage of treatment and all you can do is hope that you’re on the right side of the numbers. 

“I’m an optimistic person and I draw inspiration from my son, but it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when you look at some of the statistics,” Mr Vaughan said.  

Matt hopes that by sharing his story it will help others understand why it’s so important to be vigilant in looking out for changes in your skin.  

“Not many people are aware of how quickly things can change and that a melanoma may not always show up where the skin has seen the sun. You need to know your own skin and check all the nooks and crannies regularly.  

“If you find something even the slightest bit concerning, don’t ignore it. Trust your gut and get it checked,’ Mr Vaughan said.  

Matt is currently undergoing treatment for stage 4 melanoma at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  

Read Matt’s full story.

About the campaign 

Funded by the Victorian Government, the Don’t delay. Save your skin campaign is running on regional Victorian televisions from 22 August for six weeks. The campaign will be supported by digital media, radio and outdoor advertising and is part of a 4-year $4 million commitment by the Victorian Government to deliver SunSmart public education campaigns. This initiative forms part of the Government’s ambitious Victorian Cancer Plan 2020–24 which sets out a target to halve the proportion of Victorians diagnosed with preventable cancers by 2040. 

About the Victorian Cancer Registry data

Table 1. Age standardised incidence rates (ASR) of melanoma by 100,000 persons/males/females for Greater Melbourne and Rest of Victoria. 

  

2010–2014  

2015–2019  

   

Age Standardised Incidence Rate (95% CI)  

Age Standardised Incidence Rate (95% CI)  

Region   

Males  

Females  

Males  

Females  

Greater Melbourne (Metropolitan)   

27.26  

(26.46–28.09)  

19.26  

(18.6–19.94)  

28.41  

(27.65–29.19)  

21.45  

(20.80–22.12)  

Rest of Victoria (Regional)   

35.91  

(34.44–37.44)  

28.91  

(27.58–30.31)  

41.34  

(39.87–42.86)  

32.68  

(31.34–34.07)  

Notes: ASRs are averaged over the 5-year period 2015-2019 and 2010–2014. Upper and lower 95% confidence intervals have been provided for each of the ASRs. Where the upper and lower confidence intervals of different ASRs overlap there is no statistical difference between the ASRs.

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