Missing melanomas has SunSmart urging Victorians to check their skin

Friday 24 May, 2024

SunSmart urges Victorians to check their skin as new data from the Victorian Population Health Survey (VPHS) shows fewer than one in two Victorians (44%) checked their own skin in the past 12 months. 1

The survey of the health and wellbeing of adults in Victoria also reveals one in three Victorians saw a doctor to get a specific mole on their body checked (28%) or had their full body checked by a doctor (31%). 1

The VPHS data is concerning as we know there are currently more than 1300 missing melanoma cases, 2 said Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper AM.

“Over the past few years, health priorities have shifted the early detection behaviour of Victorians and we’re seeing the impacts of that with a 13.6% decline in expected melanoma diagnosis. 2

“Melanoma is considered the deadliest form of skin cancer as it can spread to vital organs, but if people know what to look for, they can find skin cancer before it becomes deadly,” Mr Harper said.

According to the latest Victorian Cancer Registry (VCR) data, 2,885 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma in 2022 and 262 lost their lives. 2

“This is why it is so critically important that we increase the number of Victorians checking their skin regularly and taking action by seeing a GP when they notice any changes,” said Mr Harper.

To increase the number of GPs trained to detect and treat skin cancer early, SunSmart has provided training and equipment to more than 400 GPs through its Dermoscopy for Victorian General Practice Program, funded by the Victorian Department of Health.

“We want to see all Victorians getting to know their skin, and when they notice any changes to see a GP as soon as they can, said Minister for Health, the Hon. Mary-Anne Thomas.

“This [VPHS] data shows why continued sun safety education is important, so Victorians of all ages have the information they need to protect themselves and reduce their skin cancer risk.”

SunSmart is currently running an early detection campaign focusing on regional Victorians as VCR data shows their melanoma rates are almost double (47%) compared with Victorians living in major cities. 2

Dr Thomas Dewar, who has completed the Dermoscopy for Victorian General Practice Program, said regional GPs are here to support you should you notice changes to your skin.

“We know skin cancer is not always front of mind when you visit your GP, but we want to help you find skin cancer early. Potential skin cancer signs can become visible in the form of new spots, change in colour or shape of existing spots.

“If you spot anything unusual or changing, see your GP and we’ll be happy to check it out for you. In many cases it will be nothing to worry about, but if it is skin cancer, treatment will be easier and more likely to achieve a cure if we can see you earlier,” said Dr Dewar.

SunSmart has launched the Early Detection Saves Lives campaign, funded by the Victorian Department of Health, in the Loddon Mallee region to urge locals to check their skin and see a GP if they notice any changes, said Head of SunSmart Victoria, Emma Glassenbury.

“By training and equipping GPs to detect skin cancer early, and reminding Victorians to see them as soon as they notice changes to their skin, SunSmart is helping to reduce both the personal and financial burden of skin cancer,” Ms Glassenbury said.

For more information: sunsmart.com.au

1 The Victorian Population Health Survey 2022, Victorian Department of Health
2 Victorian Cancer Registry. Cancer in Victoria: Statistics & Trends Report 2022


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