A groundbreaking new study has revealed that for the first time incidence rates for invasive melanomas have started to stabilise or fall in those aged under 60 years.
The Cancer Council Queensland study, published in the International 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 believes the turnaround in melanoma rates was the result of more than 30 years of skin cancer prevention and early detection campaigns.
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“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 early 1980’s and expanded to include Seek and Slide more recently, started a shift in sun protective behaviours which is now showing results.
“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.”
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 per cent annually in males aged 40-59, and by three per cent 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.
“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,” she said.
“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, colour or size, to visit a GP immediately.”
More information about Cancer Council Queensland and staying SunSmart is available at cancerqld.org.au or 13 11 20.