#1 Skin cancer only impacts people with pale skin
It is true that people with lighter coloured skin are most susceptible to getting skin cancer, but there are many other relevant factors. Extent of sun exposure and your family history also play an important part. While skin cancer is definitely less common for people of colour, sadly for these skin types many skin cancers are detected at a more advanced stage resulting in a lower survival rate. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that in one study the five-year survival rate for people of colour was 65% versus 90% for white people. The important thing to note is that everyone is at risk of sunburn, skin ageing and skin cancer irrespective of their skin colour.
#2 Skin cancer is an older person issue
The effects of sun exposure are cumulative, so more senior citizens tend to be impacted by skin cancer. A commonly quoted statistic is that 2 in 3 Australians will experience skin cancer by the age of 70. What not many people know is that skin cancer is the most common cancer amongst individuals aged between 15-24 in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health & Welfare confirms that skin cancer is the most common cancer accounting for around 15% of all cancers diagnosed in the 15-24 cohort.
#3 Skin cancer is only relevant in sunny countries like Australia
Skin cancer is as much, if not more, about your sun-safe behaviour as it is where you live. Skin cancer rates are increasing rapidly in countries around the World, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. Cancer Research in the UK note that melanoma skin cancer incidence rates have more than doubled since the 1990s. Melanoma is now the 5th most common cancer in the UK.
#4 Melanoma is the only serious skin cancer type
Melanoma gets a lot of headlines because the mortality rate is much higher. However, the incidence rate of other skin cancers is much higher. So, you can’t dismiss a BCC or SCC as nothing serious. The Skin Cancer Foundation points out that over 15,000 people a year die because of a SCC – more than twice the number of melanoma related deaths. Over 60,000 people a year die on non-melanoma skin cancer every year globally.
#5 Skin cancer is something only men get
Men do represent a higher proportion of skin cancer related deaths in Australia. The reasons for this skew are not gender specific. Sun exposure clearly plays a part as over 90% of skin cancers are due to overexposure. However, one of the other factors is that men are less likely to get a medical check-up. According to ABS, 86% of women had visited their GP in the last 12 months compared to 75% for men. So, when a skin cancer is detected it is likely to be at a more advanced stage which leads to a higher mortality rate.
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This blog is for information purposes only, always consult with a medical professional for expert advice.
Australian rules football coach and former player Jarryd Roughead took the time to answer our questions about his experience with skin cancer.
Coming directly from the sun, UV radiation permeates 90% of cloud coverage, and can reflect off the surfaces of concrete, sand, and even snow. That means even the cloudiest and coldest of days cannot shield us from UV exposure.