A collaboration between Cancer Council NSW, Cancer Institute NSW and Melanoma Institute Australia
Published 13 January 2014
On 4 February 2014, Cancer Council NSW, the Cancer Institute NSW and Melanoma Institute Australia launched an early detection and skin cancer prevention campaign with the aim to:
- Engage with men over 50 years about the importance of early detection of melanoma and other skin cancers.
- Communicate to men that their risk of melanoma and other skin cancers can still be reduced by practicing sun protection.
- Encourage men to speak to their GP about their personal risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers.
Australia has among the highest rates of melanoma and other skin cancers in the world. At least 2 in 3 Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 701 and in 2011, more than 2000 people died from skin cancer2. Increasingly Australian men are more likely to be diagnosed and die from melanoma than women.
The national disparity for melanoma incidence and mortality rates between males and females is reflected in NSW. The most recent data3 available shows that in NSW the risk of:
- Being diagnosed with melanoma by age 75 is 1 in 24 for males and 1 in 34 for females.
- Dying from melanoma by 75 years of age is 1 in 177 for males and 1 in 466 for females.
This disparity is particularly apparent in people aged 50 years and over from which point the gap between incidence and mortality between males and females rises steeply. In NSW, men over 50 compared to women of similar age, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with melanoma and three times as likely to die from it.
Research has demonstrated that men in NSW have poorer sun protection behaviours than women. Men are less likely to use sunscreen, wear protective clothing and sunglasses or use shade and are also more likely to spend time outdoors during peak UV times than women4. Men aged over 40 years have also been found to have a more fatalistic attitude toward skin cancer, and a perception that taking care of their skin is not ‘manly’5.
What can GPs do?
Diagnosed and treated early, the 5-year relative survival for melanoma is high. While there is no evidence that population-based screening for melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers is effective in reducing morbidity or mortality, skin surveillance is recommended for patients identified to be at high risk of skin cancer6.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
- multiple naevi
- multiple dysplastic naevi
- personal or family history of melanoma
- increasing age
- high levels of intermittent sun exposure
- personal history of NMSC
- fair skin that burns easily, freckles and does not tan
- having fair or red hair and blue or green eyes
- immune suppression and/or transplant recipients.
Primary health providers already play a key role in diagnosing and treating skin cancer. A recent survey of 500 men aged 50 and over across NSW found that 84% prefer to seek advice about skin cancer from their GP7.
GPs can make a significant difference by talking to patients about their risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers, the warning signs to look out for and the ongoing importance of sun protection at any age.
Cancer Council NSW skin cancer resources are currently being disseminated to GPs across NSW.
(1) Staples MP, Elwood M, Burton RC, Williams JL, Marks R, Giles GG. Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia: the 2002 national survey and trends since 1985. Med J Aust 2006;184(1):6-10.
(2) Australian Bureau of Statistics. Causes of Death 2011. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.
(3) Tracey E et al. Cancer in NSW: Incidence and Mortality Report 2008. Sydney, NSW: Cancer Institute NSW; 2010.
(4) Volkov A. 2010-11 National Sun Survey Report 2. Supplementary table of states’ prevalence figures by gender. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer Victoria; 2012.
(5) Michael Murphy. CINSW skin cancer prevention, protection attitudes and behaviours amongst adults aged 40 years and over. Cancer Insitute NSW; 2012.
(6) Australian Cancer Network Melanoma Guidelines Revision Working Party. Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Melanoma in Australia and New Zealand. 2008. Cancer Council Australia and Australian Cancer Network, Sydney and New Zealand Guidelines Group.
Ref Type: Serial (Book,Monograph)
(7) Newspoll. Opinions and attitudes towards skin cancer. A sample of 500 men aged 50+ and living in NSW. Conducted 6-12 December 2013. 2013.
Ref Type: Online Source