Child Hospital

New data reveals childhood cancer burden in Australia

While childhood cancer incidence rates are on the rise in Australia, mortality rates have decreased by 38 per cent over the last two decades, new Cancer Council Queensland figures show.

The latest data from the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry, which is independently managed and funded by Cancer Council Queensland, has been released for International Childhood Cancer Day today.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said the findings reinforced the need for ongoing research in this area to help reduce the burden of this disease on our youngest generation.

“The incidence rate of childhood cancer rose by 34 per cent in the 33 years between 1983 and 2015,” Ms McMillan said.

“Around 770 children aged 0-14 are now diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia and around 100 children die from the disease.

“Leukaemias are the most common type of cancer diagnosed among Australian children, accounting for around one third of all cases.”

Ms McMillan said while cancer remains the leading causes of disease-related death in children over the age of one year, the data shows survival rates are significantly improving.

“Five-year relative survival for childhood cancer has continued to improve over the last three decades in Australia, with large improvements observed for children with several types of cancer,” Ms McMillan said.

“However, there is still work to be done, with little or no improvement in survival for child with some types of brain cancers or liver cancer.

“Awareness and further funding are sorely needed in order to secure a future in which suffering is significantly reduced for all types of childhood cancer.”

International Childhood Cancer Day is an opportunity to raise awareness and promote a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by children and adolescents with cancer and their families.

Ms McMillan encouraged all Queensland families affected by cancer to reach out for support.

“The impact of childhood cancer goes far beyond the numbers. It’s a tragic moment when a family is given the news their child has cancer, and the burden goes beyond the physical – it can affect finances, emotional stability, mental health and many social aspects of life,” Ms McMillan said.

“Cancer Council Queensland is committed to reducing the effects of a childhood cancer diagnosis on family, friends and the local community. It’s why we independently fund and manage the Australian Childhood Cancer Registry – one of the few national registers of childhood cancer in the world.

“Cancer registries are vital for monitoring the success of cancer treatment, early detection and prevention strategies.

“Our information and support phone line, 13 11 20, is available for family and friends with questions relating to childhood cancer – from treatment and managing emotions, to outlining ways to discuss cancer with children and young people.

“We also have a no cost counselling service for adults who may be caring for a child with cancer, as well as resources relevant to the emotional experience of cancer.

“We welcome all Queenslanders to call us for confidential support, advice or simply a listening ear from our qualified health professionals.”

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available via cancerqld.org.au or 13 11 20.

Love heart

Valentine’s Day: Be frisky, not risky

QUEENSLAND Health is urging lovers to ‘wrap it up’ with a condom to avoid gifting their partners with a sexually transmissible infection (STI) this Valentine’s Day (Night).

Senior Medical Officer of Communicable Diseases Dr Jonathan Malo said recent Queensland Health market research had found 30 percent of young Queenslanders aged 15 to 29 hardly ever used protection.

More than 23,000 people contracted chlamydia in Queensland last year, while almost 5000 were diagnosed with gonorrhoea.

“Nationally and in Queensland there are high and increasing rates of STIs,” Dr Malo said.

“If you’re aged 15-29 years you are at the highest risk of contracting an STI.

“Condoms used together with water-based lubricant are the best way to protect yourself and your partner from these infections, as well as other STIs, yet our research shows us that not everyone is using them.

“Our data shows us that condom use is mainly motivated by a desire to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STI prevention is a secondary driver at best, and for only half of all condom users.

“Our research also showed that the majority of young people had never been tested for an STI because they were too embarrassed to talk to a health professional or because they didn’t believe they were at risk.

“If you’re sexually active, it is recommended that you have a sexual health check at least once a year, even if you don’t have any symptoms.

“Quite often people will not realise that they have an STI and could be unknowingly passing it on.

“By educating yourself, wearing protection and having regular sexual health check-ups you can be frisky without the risky.”

Queensland Health recently launched a series of new sexual health animations, including ‘how to put on a condom’, to help educate Queenslanders.

“The animated videos cover specific STIs and how they affect the body, as well as topics including emergency contraception, the reproductive cycle, and what to expect when you have a sexual health check-up,” Dr Malo said.

“Not all young people are the same and the same goes for their sexual and reproductive health needs, which is why we have created some animations specifically showing the impact of STIs on the male anatomy versus the female anatomy.

“These animations are just another way we can communicate with Queenslanders who are looking for information online and encourage them to not only wear condoms, but to book a sexual health check.

“Queenslanders can get tested for STIs through their local general practice, sexual health clinic, or some community health services.”

To watch the animations, click here.

For more information on sexual health checks, click here.

Yoga Burleigh Beach

World Cancer Day brings alarming new statistics

It’s been revealed that over 200,000 Australian cancer cases could be avoided if adults followed dietary and physical activity guidelines.

New research funded by Cancer Council Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has revealed that if Australian adults followed the existing Australian Dietary and National Physical Activity guidelines, as many as 190,500 overweight/obesity-related cancers could be prevented over a 25-year period.

In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, it was also found that almost 20,000 inactivity-related cancers could be avoided if adults committed to just five hours of physical activity a week.

The findings released for World Cancer Day have prompted a call for personal and government action.

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan explained that individuals can take steps to reduce their risk of lifestyle-related cancers.

“We already know that one-third of all cancer cases could be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet, being physically active, quitting smoking, being SunSmart and limiting alcohol.

“Every Queenslander has the power to reduce the impact of cancer for themselves and the people they love – whether that’s through making healthy lifestyle choices, taking part in cancer screening programs, or raising funds for the cause,” Ms McMillan said.

Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO Cancer Council Australia, said that while it is important for people to look after themselves, the Federal Government also needs to do more to reduce these alarming statistics.

“In the lead up to the next federal election, both sides of politics need to recognise their responsibility to help protect children from mass marketing of junk food; improve the Health Star Rating food labelling system to provide simpler, more informed choices to consumers; and promote more public education about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise,” Ms Aranda said.

Heat Beach

Cook a snag, not yourself this Australia Day

WE’RE being warned to be wary of just how much time we spend in the sun this Australia Day long weekend.

Queensland Health has partnered with Surf Life Saving Queensland to remind us just how dangerous it is.

It’s estimated that 2.1 million adults and 394,000 children were sunburnt in the Sunshine State last year. More than 240,000 of those people were on the Gold Coast, of whom 27,000 developed blistering skin.

“That’s half the population,” said Acting Public Health Physician, Dr Andre Wattiaux.

Over the Australia Day long weekend alone, 43 people were burnt so badly in Queensland, they had to be hospitalised.

Dr Wattiaux said the statistics were “concerning”, with evidence showing getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma.

He said using sunscreen correctly could reduce the prevalence of all skin cancers by 10 to 15 percent, and daily use could reduce the risk of melanoma by an incredible 75 percent.

“We are urging Queenslanders to make sun safety a priority, to reduce their skin cancer risk, and avoid a really uncomfortable few days following sunburn,” Dr Wattiaux said.

“Australia Day falls around the hottest part of the year and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) levels are extreme.

“Unprotected skin will burn in under 10 minutes, so if you are spending the weekend at the beach or outdoors it is important to use combination of the five sun safe behaviours.

“Last year our emergency departments saw 43 presentations for sunburn over the Australia Day period, which has increased four-fold in the last five years – and that’s just the number of people sunburnt so badly that they attended an emergency department.”

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan said Queensland has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, with about 3600 Queenslanders diagnosed with melanoma each year.

“It’s extremely concerning that some people are getting sunburnt so badly they need emergency care,” Ms McMillan said.

“Sunburn isn’t just painful – it’s a sign UV rays have damaged your skin; the sunburn might fade but the UV damage remains and increases your risk of skin cancer.”

Ms McMillan urged Queenslanders to keep sun protection top-of-mind this Australia Day.

“Many of us will be taking advantage of the long weekend by spending time outdoors, however, at this time of year, the UV levels hit extreme and unprotected skin could burn in as little as 10 minutes,” Ms McMillan said.

“Whether you’re cracking out the cricket set, or heading to the coast or your local dam, you need to follow all five sun-protective behaviours.

“Slip on protective clothing, Slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunglasses.

“Where possible, people should avoid excess sun exposure, especially during periods of extreme heat and UV, keep cool and drink as much water as possible.

“It’s also crucial that families apply sunscreen properly – apply one teaspoon per limb, for the front and back of the torso, face and neck, including ears, 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply at least every two hours.”

Sun protection is required when the ultraviolent (UV) index is 3 and above, which is all year round in Queensland, and can even be from as early as 7.20am in summer.

Blood Donation

100 Gold Coast blood donors needed this Australia Day long weekend

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service is calling on more local Aussie legends to give up an hour of their time to donate blood on the Gold Coast this Australia Day long weekend.

Robina and Southport Blood Donor Centres need 100 more donors to give blood on Saturday 26th and Monday 28th January when appointments are low.

Blood Service spokesperson Belinda Smetioukh said cancer patients, trauma victims, people with bleeding disorders, new mums and newborn babies would still need blood this Australia Day.

“Australia Day is the perfect time to give back to the local community; there’s nothing more Australian than helping out a mate or three by donating blood,” she said.

“To ensure blood is there when you or a loved one needs it, we need more Gold Coast residents to sign-up as blood donors.

“We’re particularly encouraging people who have never donated blood before to become a local legend in 2019 and trade places with our regular donors who are away for the Australia Day public holiday.

“With one in three Aussies needing a blood product in their lifetime but only one in 30 donating, there’s never been a better time to donate blood.

“Blood donation takes just one hour – it’s such a short time spent saving lives.”

Every month Australia needs 8,000 new donors to sign up to donate blood.

To make an appointment to give blood this Australia Day long weekend, visit donateblood.com.au or call 13 14 95.