SLIP SLOP SLAP: Regional variation in cancer incidence rates occurs for diverse and complex reasons including exposure to environmental factors, socioeconomic status, access to health services including screening services, and chance.
SLIP SLOP SLAP: Regional variation in cancer incidence rates occurs for diverse and complex reasons including exposure to environmental factors, socioeconomic status, access to health services including screening services, and chance. ChesiireCat

Gympie melanoma rates on par with state

SLIP Slop Slap is still the message for Gympie region residents, whose rate of skin cancer is on a par with the state average.

Public health physician for the Gympie and Sunshine Coast Health District, Dr Margaret Young, said yesterday there were three main types of skin cancer: melanoma and the two non-melanoma skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is one of the most serious types of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body, especially if not detected early.

Queensland has the highest incidence (diagnosis) of melanoma in Australia. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. Incidence rates for melanoma have continued to rise overall for both male and female Queenslanders, but more slowly now than in the 1980s and 1990s and with decreasing rates apparent for young adults. Melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in Queensland, after prostate cancer.

Regional variation in cancer incidence rates occurs for diverse and complex reasons including exposure to environmental factors, socioeconomic status, access to health services including screening services, and chance.

Men are approximately 50% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in Queensland —in 2012, the rate in men was approximately 90 per 100,000 compared with 60 per 100,000 for women (after differences in the age structures of the groups are accounted for).

Melanoma incidence also varies by where people live. Men in the North West, and Torres and Cape York Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) were diagnosed at a rate of fewer than 50 per 100,000 in 2012, while for men in the Central West HHS the rate was 120 per 100,000.

In the Sunshine Coast HHS which consists of the Gympie, Noosa and Sunshine Coast council areas, men were diagnosed at a rate of approximately 100 per 100,000 men.

Similarly, women in the North West, and Torres and Cape York HHSs were diagnosed at rates of fewer than 10 per 100,000 women in 2012, while women in the West Moreton and Gold Coast HHSS were diagnosed at the rate of approximately 70 per 100,000 women.

Women living in the Sunshine Coast HHS experienced similar rates of melanoma to the average Queensland woman in 2012, at approximately 60 per 100,000.

People living in socio-economically disadvantaged areas in Queensland were approximately 22% less likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2010-11 than those living in advantaged areas.

Most melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultra-violet (UV) radiation which may be from the sun or a UV-tanning device.

(It is now illegal to provide commercial solariums in Queensland.)

The best ways to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer are to:

1. Slip on protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible

2. Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen regularly

3. Slap on a broad-brimmed hat

4. Seek shade

5. Slide on close-fitting, wrap-around sunglasses.

Unfortunately, many Queenslanders are not protecting themselves sufficiently from the sun. In 2013-14, 1 in 2 (54%) adults and even more alarmingly, 3 in 5 (59%) children, reported being sunburnt in the past year. Rates of sunburn were similar in the Sunshine Coast HHS, with 53% of adults and 64 per cent of children reporting sunburn in the past year.

For more information:

- talk to your G.P. about having your skin checked

- visit Queensland Health’s sun safety website https://www.qld.gov.au/health/staying-healthy/environmental/sun/index.html

- visit the Cancer Council Queensland website https://cancerqld.org.au/

- read The health of Queenslanders 2014: the fifth report of the Chief Health Officer Queensland https://www.health.qld.gov.au/cho_report/