Cases of melanoma could be going undetected among rural Australians, with those who work on the land prone to falling victim to skin cancer and men more likely than women to die from the disease.
That combination of findings from national research has prompted organisations Melanoma Patients Australia, and Melanoma and Skin Cancer Trials to urge rural people to regularly check themselves for telltale signs.
Their campaign – Self Skin Checks, No Regrets – encourages people over 60 to be aware of the risk factors and monitor their body, and their partner’s, for new or changing moles, spots or lesions.
“Older people didn’t grow up in the ‘slip, slop, slap’ age, and there wasn’t a conversation about sun protection when they were children,” Melanoma Patients Australia chief executive Victoria Beedle told AAP.
“Many over-60s have grown up running around the paddocks with not much sun protection and are at higher risk.”
Ms Beedle said there were fears skin cancers had gone undetected during COVID-19 after a Cancer Australia report found there were 11,245 fewer than expected melanoma procedures carried out in 2020.
Rural Australians can also be at greater risk because healthcare services are not always nearby or easily accessible, she said.
“If you’ve avoided going to see your GP during the pandemic, now is the time for a general health check, including a skin check.”
Research compiled by the Cancer Council shows outdoor workers like farmers can receive up to 10 times the ultraviolet radiation of those who work indoors and their risk of developing certain skin cancers is almost double.
Australian cancer data has long shown men are far more likely to die from melanoma than women. Mortality estimates from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showed 843 men died of the disease in 2021, compared to 472 women.
Victorian Melanoma Service director Victoria Mar said skin cancer could spread to other parts of the body very quickly if left unchecked.
“If people are worried about leaving their farm and travelling to get a skin check, think about the inconvenience and costs involved with managing disease once it’s spread,” she said.
“The simplest way to achieve a good outcome is to not delay if you notice anything concerning on your skin.”
(Australian Associated Press)