Do Aussies take melanoma seriously?

melanoma: woman puts sun cream on boy's back in full sun

Many people understand that melanoma is a frequently diagnosed cancer in Australia – but most underestimate how serious the disease is.

“There’s a general misconception about the severity of melanoma – people think it’s just a skin cancer and it can be cut out and they’ll be fine,” says Janine Owen Koorey from the Melanoma Institute Australia.

“For a lot of people it’s a shock when they realise melanoma is one of the most deadly forms of cancer.

“We need education around that – and early education. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of encouraging people to have their skin checked, check their own skin regularly and be aware of what’s normally there for them, and knowing what to look for, such as changes to a spot.”

Pharmacists can help by not only offering advice on best use when selling suncare products such as sunscreen and hats, but also by talking to customers about this general skin awareness, she says, especially during March, when the Melanoma March initiative takes place.

“Encourage people to be aware of their own skin,” she says. “If something changes, or something’s new or irregular, or a spot is itching or bleeding, people need to seek further advice, so if a pharmacist knows the places to refer them to – their local GP or skin cancer clinic, or dermatologist – that can really help.

“And when selling suncare, sun cream is only one aspect. A broad-brimmed hat is another, being in the shade, avoiding the sun in the hottest part of the day – they’re all elements that people need to be encouraged to use.

“We know people aren’t applying suncream right, either!”

2015 will be the fourth year Melanoma March takes place, with marches in eight new locations – Wagga Wagga, Taree, Picton, Busselton, Cairns, Bribie Island, Rockingham and Canberra. This year Melanoma March hopes to raise over a million dollars to fund phase two of the Melanoma Genome Projects.

“90% of melanomas can actually be successfully treated if detected early enough,” says Koorey. “That’s why early education is crucial.”

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