Over the past 20 years it has become very apparent that skin cancer is a massive problem for countries close to the equator and especially for residents of Australia. Baby boomers growing up in the 60s and 70s, exposed themselves to the harmful affects of the sun without knowing its full affects. Now baby boomers in there 50s and 60s are paying the costs in terms of melanomas, skin cancers etc. The latest estimates suggest that 1 in 19 residents in Brisbane, Australia are going to be affected by skin cancer. Up to 1200 people die from preventable skin cancers every year in Australia.
Professor Ian Frazer
Australian of the Year Professor Ian Fraser is so concerned that he is on the path to developing a vaccine for skin cancer because research suggests that a virus is what causes it. As of 2010 – he has started a 10-year clinical trial phase to fast track the vaccine.
“Genetics and variations in people’s immune systems may expose some people to greater risk of skin cancer after sun exposure. If you take away the body’s defence systems, skin cancer becomes more common”. His theory is that some viruses – particularly the wart virus or HPV are embedded in the layers of the skin, which then pose a skin cancer risk for people with damaged immune systems. We are all aware of the benefits that his HPV vaccine did for cervical cancer. There is a lot of hope within the medical community of what this potential vaccine will do for skin cancer in this country.
So what can you do to help prevent skin cancer? The first step is to lower your chances of getting skin cancer in the first place. Avoiding sun and protecting yourself when out in the sun is a good place to start. As the famous government Sun Smart slogan says – Slip on a shirt, Slop on the 30+ sunscreen, Slap on a hat. It really is about changing people’s behaviour and attitudes. Unfortunately, the attitude still exists that having a sun bronzed body is sexy and appealing, especially for young men and women. What the advertisements don’t tell us, is that having this type of skin through vast exposure to the sun leads to skin cancer in older age. Not an attractive proposition.
Here are some other recommendations
Examine your skin every month. This is especially important if you have moles on your body. Look for any imperfections or changes in colour. Your local GP will help to advise you of what to look for.