Melanoma is still on the rise in older Australians

Australians may have become more sun smart as the awareness of the dangers of melanoma and other skin cancers has increased, but unfortunately the rates of melanoma in people over the age of 50 continues to rise.

In a study by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, researchers have found the rates of melanoma in people over the age of about 50 is likely due to many older people having sustained sun damage before prevention campaigns were introduced.

“Australian’s have become more ‘sun smart’ as they have become more aware of the dangers of melanomas and other skin cancers,” Professor David Whiteman, who led the study, said.

He says melanomas appearing in those aged over 50 are only appearing now, decades after the cancer-causing exposure to sunlight has occurred.


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Perhaps more concerning is that while the average melanoma rate per 100,000 people has fallen in Australia, the overall number of invasive melanomas (the deadliest form of skin cancer, and capable of spreading to other parts of the body) diagnosed is rising.

The research predicts cases of melanoma will rise from 12,283 total cases of melanoma (2012-16) to 13,465 (2017-21).

“Australians can’t afford to become complacent,” Professor Whiteman says.

The Australian Cancer Council published new recommendations in January to provide clearer and simpler advice to the public aimed at reducing the risk of skin cancer caused by overexposure to the sun.

The research also showed that of the countries studied New Zealand now had the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.

Have you ever been diagnosed with a melanoma or other skin cancer? What steps are you taking now to prevent sun damage?