Skin Cancer Capital

24 Mar

By Amanda Doyle, Bond University Journalism student

Individuals with five or more skin cancers each are on the increase, according to the Principal Doctor at Tweed Skin Cancer Clinic.

Dr Glen Parker said he had observed an exponential growth of skin cancers in recent years but said early detection can lead to a cure, making it essential for all Gold Coasters to practise efficient sun safety.

Dr Parker cuts out more than 15 skin cancers a day on average, and freezes multiple more, seeing a big population of females over the age of 40.

“The thing I’m seeing more and more of, is patients with five or more skin cancers at a time,” he said.

“Most skin cancers I find are in people who don’t know they have them.”

The most severe skin cancers Dr Parker works with are patients who work outdoors or surf frequently, with a rise in older generation patients who had to walk to and from school when they were younger.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Dr Isolde Hertess said two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer by the time they are 70.

Dr Hertess said she frequently saw patients who had left their cancers undiagnosed for months.

“I can tell how aggressive the cancers are and act very quickly,” she said.

“If you get regular checkups and remove skin cancers early, it is a 99 per cent cure rate, however if left for too long there’s the potential for fatalities.”

Both Dr Parker and Dr Hertess stress the importance of regular – ideally annual – checkups.

Skin cancers can grow anywhere on the arms, legs, back, face, under the face, private areas, head and more increasingly inside the ear, which can be extremely difficult to remove, said Dr Parker.

The Gold Coast is Queensland’s skin cancer capital due to the high UV index all year.

Tweed Skin Cancer Clinic has the highest pickup rate for skin cancers and melanomas in Australia, according to national pathology audit results.

“No matter how severe the case, I don’t often come across a patient I can’t get back to good health,” Dr Parker said.

Griffith University Commerce-Finance student Tim Summerville said he noticed an unusual mole on his ear after years of sun exposure, and found it was a basal cell carcinoma – the most common yet least dangerous form of skin cancer.

“I never expected to have a skin cancer at 20 years of age,” he said.

“It just reinforces that none of us are immune from skin cancers and we should all practice sun safety from early on.

“I have a scar to remind me that it is a serious concern of many Australians and we should start taking it more seriously, starting with regular checkups.”

‘Slip Slop Slap Seek Slide’ is the core message of the Cancer Council Australia’s SunSmart program to protect Australians against skin cancer.

The slogan stands for ‘slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.’

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