New research by the Cancer Council NSW has found men who survive melanoma are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer later in life.
Dr Visalini Nair-Shalliker, Research Fellow at Cancer Council NSW, said the results were found by analysing nearly four decades of diagnoses data.
“We looked at all prostate cancer and melanoma diagnoses between 1972 and 2008,” Nair-Shalliker said in a statement. “There were nearly 144,000 men diagnosed with either cancer in the study period. Of the men first diagnosed with melanoma, 2,114 were subsequently diagnosed with prostate cancer.”
What the results mean is men with a previous diagnosis of melanoma are at a 25 per cent increased risk of a prostate cancer diagnosis. In Australia, melanoma and prostate cancer rates remain some of the highest in the world. There were 16,665 new cases of prostate cancer last year. In 2018, 14,320 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed, with 8,653 of those being men.
According to the Cancer Council, Solar UV exposure is the leading environmental cause of melanoma, causing more than 95 per cent of all skin cancer cases. Risk factors such as family history and age are commonly linked with prostate cancer, although more research is finding solar UV exposure may also be a potential risk factor.
“Our results suggest that sun exposure may also play a role in prostate cancer and that protecting yourself from the sun is therefore all the more important,” Nair-Shalliker added. “Men with a previous melanoma diagnosis are more likely to have more regular interactions with their GP and therefore may be more vigilant about their health – this may consequently increase the likelihood of detecting other diseases, including prostate cancer. Our findings raise the potential for GPs to discuss future prostate cancer risk with men newly diagnosed with melanoma.”
The best way to protect yourself from harmful UV rays is to be safe when spending time in the sun. Slathering yourself in sunscreen is important, but SPF30+ cream alone isn’t enough to protect you against harmful UV rays. It is also important to protect yourself in other ways by wearing sun-protective clothing, opting for water-resistant sunblock if swimming or getting wet, choosing a wide brim hat, avoiding direct sunlight where possible and protecting your eyes with sunglasses.
It’s also important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. It should be applied 20 minutes before coming in contact with UV light, because it acts as a barrier between your body and harmful rays.