Skin checks reveal dark side of sun exposure for surfers, swimmers, SUPs

Shocking new data has revealed some of our favourite water based past-times are putting us at significant increased risk of skin cancers.

An Australian-first study by Southern Cross University has found that surfers, swimmers and stand-up paddle boarders get melanoma at six times the rate of the general population.

Of the 182 ocean users from the Gold Coast and Northern New South Wales who were analysed, including some of the world’s top-ranked surfers, almost half were identified as having malignant or pre-malignant skin cancers.


Dr Mike Climstein, an Associate Professor in Clinical Exercise Physiology at SCU, said the phase-one results are quite startling.

“Of greatest concern is the melanoma rate detected, which is six-fold higher compared to the melanoma rate in the Australian general population.”

Researchers say the reasons ocean users are most as risk is due to the dangerous levels of UV exposure contained in sunlight while outdoors and people not using enough sun protective measures.

Ocean users are encouraged to be more mindful of the risks when outdoors and consider getting a total body skin check.

The research team is now developing a more extensive and comprehensive study for phase-two that will detect melanomas much earlier for people who are regular ocean users.

They are seeking industry support to purchase a total body photography scanner to assist in their work.

Associate Professor Michael Stapelberg, a specialist general practitioner with a focus on skin cancer and dermatology said “Using computer-aided total body photography will help monitor participants with a lot of pigmented skin lesions to detect melanoma earlier.”

“Given that our current research participants have such a high incidence of skin cancer, we believe a greater number of participants and improved sensitivity in early detection of skin cancer, especially melanoma, will further enhance the impact and findings of this research.”