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UK melanoma trends at odds with Australia

Queensland scientists have found rates of melanoma are rising among young people in England while falling in the same group in Australia.

The research was led by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute’s world-renowned skin cancer researcher Professor Adele Green and included collaborators from Manchester University, Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) and Public Health England.

Professor Green said researchers were keen to compare the rates of the two countries after identifying a significant decrease in melanoma rates among the youngest generation of Australians.

“We were keen to measure our trends against young people in England because of our shared ancestry but different climates and different histories of skin cancer prevention campaigns,” Professor Green said.

“As expected we found that after the age of 10 melanoma incidence is clearly higher in Australia than in England due to our much sunnier climate.

“However melanoma incidence rates are significantly decreasing – by 6% per year in young women in Australia aged 15 to 24 and by 12% per year in young Australian men.”

Professor Green said in contrast, melanoma incidence in England is still rising by 2% per year in both sexes in the 15 to 24 year age group.

“The decreasing trends in Australia are very encouraging as they are further evidence that the long-standing primary prevention campaigns in Australia are beginning to pay off,” Professor Green said.

“Similar strategies in England have been implemented but more recently and to a lesser extent. Their trends could be expected to result in a similar decrease in future if widespread measures to decrease people’s sun exposure and sunbed use were put in place in England.”

CCQ spokesperson Katie Clift said the findings would help to inform future strategies for preventing skin cancer in Australia and internationally.

“With a more mobile world population, and significant numbers of tourists travelling to the Sunshine State each year, it’s critical to continue sun protection campaigns in order to prevent skin cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“These findings confirm that Australia has much to offer other countries who may have population groups at a high risk of skin cancer.”

However, despite the decrease in rates among young people in Australia, an average of 170 Australians under the age of 25 are still diagnosed with melanoma each year.

“It’s vital that Australians protect themselves from the sun – we all need to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide to reduce our risk of skin cancer,” Ms Clift said.

“When the UV Index level is three or above and we’re outdoors, it’s vital to adopt all five recommended sun protective behaviours.

“Australians of all ages need to get to know their own skin, and be aware of any changes – if you notice any new spots or lesions, or any spots or lesions change in shape, colour or size, see your GP immediately.

“The sooner a melanoma is detected, the greater the chance of effective treatment and survival.”