Blokes ignoring skin cancer risk

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Less than one in three Australian men consider themselves at high risk of skin cancer – even though 82% have at least one known risk factor

New survey findings from the Australasian College of Dermatologists show that these risk factors – such as fair hair, skin that burns easily, or spending time outdoors each week – aren’t enough for men to consider themselves at high risk.

And nearly two-thirds of men – 61% have delayed going to the doctor despite having concerns about a health issue, with more than a quarter of full-time workers saying they’re too busy at work and can’t spare the time.

Sydney dermatologist Dr Alex Varol says that she has seen the “devastating” impact of skin cancer throughout her career and highlights the importance of early diagnosis.

“Dermatologists unfortunately see a huge number of male patients with some form of skin cancer,” she says.

While men are at higher risk of developing both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer than women, they are more reluctant to have their skin checked and often don’t realise that they are at risk until somebody they know is diagnosed with skin cancer.

“Removing the primary melanoma at the origin will resolve 90% of cases of the disease, which makes early detection and diagnosis absolutely critical,” Dr Varol says.

She urged men to perform regular self skin checks for changing or non-healing marks, and seek professional attention as soon as they notice anything suspicious.

Professor David Whiteman, Deputy Director, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Brisbane, who recently developed an online tool designed to identify individuals at high risk of melanoma, says an estimated two in three Australians will develop skin cancer by 70 years of age.

Skin cancer is caused by sun exposure between 95 and 99% of the time, he says, and accounts for roughly 80% of all cancer diagnoses in Australia.

“The risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers increases with age,” he says. “This risk starts to rise noticeably at 50 years of age, and the risk curve becomes markedly steeper with advancing age.”

Prof Whiteman is joining dermatologists and male skin cancer patients Australia-wide to urge men to pay more attention to their skin.

“What’s most concerning about the new ACD survey findings is that Australian men are failing to recognise they are at risk of skin cancer, despite our country’s high level of UV exposure,” he says.

The average Australian man spends around 15 hours outdoors each week.

Even those men who report multiple risk factors (54%) for skin cancer fail to consider themselves at high risk of the disease, the survey findings revealed.

The ACD survey findings also revealed exposure to someone who has been diagnosed with skin cancer is a strong risk factor that determines personal, perceived risk.

Among the survey respondents who knew someone who had been diagnosed with skin cancer, 46% considered themselves at high risk of developing the disease themselves.

In contrast, only 12% of the survey respondents who knew no-one who had been diagnosed with skin cancer, considered themselves to be at high risk of the disease.

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