Melanoma incidence rates begin to stabilize in Queensland, study shows

For the first time Queensland researchers have found that incidence rates for invasive melanomas have started to stabilize or fall in those aged under 60 years, a groundbreaking new study shows.

The Cancer Council Queensland study, published in theInternational Journal of Cancer, examined melanoma incidence and mortality rates from the past 20 years, with incidence rates now plateauing in those aged 40-59, and declining in those aged under 40.

Cancer Council Queensland’s Head of Research Professor Joanne Aitken said the turnaround in melanoma rate was the result of more than 30 years of skin cancer prevention and early detection campaigns.

“Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with around 3700 people diagnosed with melanoma each year,” Professor Aitken said.

“The findings are extremely promising and give good evidence that long-running melanoma prevention and early detection campaigns have resulted in a fall in the burden of melanoma across successive generations.

“Cancer Council’s signature Slip, Slop, Slap campaign, which launched in the early1980’s and expanded to include Seek and Slide more recently, started a shift in sun protective behaviors which is now showing results.

“Melanomas that result from sun exposure can present many years after the damage is done.

“Queenslanders aged 60 and over who did not grow up with prevention campaigns, continue to experience higher rates of melanoma.However, we are now seeing rates decline in younger generations who have been influenced by prevention campaigns from an early age.

“Melanoma remains one of the most preventable cancers and if detected early, most cases can be treated successfully.”

For the study, Cancer Council Queensland researchers in collaboration with researchers at the University of Queensland, the QIMR-Berghofer Medical Research Institute and the Princess Alexandra Hospital, examined incidence and mortality rates of invasive melanomas over a 20-year period, from 1995 to 2014 (the latest data available).

Mortality rates have also started to decline by two percent annually in males aged 40-59, and by three percent annually in both male and females under 40.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms. Chris McMillan said prevention and early detection remained key to combatting this disease.

“Sun safety continues to play a major role in preventing skin cancer through the use of protective measures when the UV Index is three or above,” Ms. McMillan said.

“The findings of this study make a compelling case for the continuation and strengthening of public health efforts to reduce the incidence and mortality of melanoma not only in Queensland but around the world.

“It’s imperative that Queenslanders slip on protective clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on wrap-around sunnies when outdoors.

“We’re also urging Queenslanders to get to know their own skin and if they notice a new spot or lesion, or a spot or lesion change in shape, color or size, to visit a GP immediately.

“Queenslanders with fair skin, skin that burns easily, the presence of many moles, and a family history of skin cancer are at greater risk of developing melanoma.”

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