Health Matters

Skin Cancer

Did you know that the cost of treating skin cancer is higher in Australia than any other cancer. For many years I have been part of the QSKIN Sun & Health Study at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. The QIMR, based in Brisbane, Queensland, is a world leading research centre which focuses on four areas: cancer; infectious disease; mental health and chronic disorders.

I have the sunscreen all I have to do is put it on each day!

The QSKIN research is the largest medical research study ever conducted in Queensland. In 2014 the research was expanded to the QSKIN Genetics Project and 42,690 participants were invited to provide a saliva sample. I provided mine in 2015. In total 20,925 responded positively and 18,627 saliva samples were returned. This is an overall response rate of 43.6% which is very good. DNA were extracted from the samples and currently these are being genotyped at the Human Genomics Facility (HuGe-F) at Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam.

Earlier this year I and my O&O had a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) surgically removed. Queensland with our wonderful climate and sunshine has one downside, that is, we are at higher risk of getting a skin cancer than the southern states of Australia. Therefore, the slogan, Slip (on a top), Slop (on sunscreen) and Slap (on a hat) is a good one to follow. Slip, slop, slap is one of the most successful health campaigns in Australian history. It was first launched in 1981 and today is institutionalised as the core message of the Cancer Council Australia. If you want to learn more about their work go to the link – Cancer Council Australia.

In the latest QSKIN newsletter it reported that smoking increases the risk of Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC). Recent research has shown a link between current smokers as being significantly more likely to develop a SCC than non-smokers. On the other hand, there was no evidence that smoker had higher risk of BCC than non-smoker. The research was undertaken by PhD student Jean Claude Dusingize. More research of the area is required however the findings to date suggest that by quitting a smoker can lower their risk of SCC to the same level as someone who has never smoked.

Those of us with fair skin are more at risk of burning in the sun, rather than getting a tan. When I was a teenager I thought I could sun bake and get a fabulous tan. All I ended up with was fabulous sunburn and very painful it was. I remember one family holiday at Palm Beach, Gold Coast, getting very sun burnt after I fell asleep on the beach! I have had a few BCC’s removed and in the decades that followed I have covered up when in the sun. Now I am Vitamin D deficient and on supplements. Sun bathing is good for us, as long as we don’t over do it. The best times in Queensland are between 10am – 4pm in the summer. I have gotten wiser as I have gotten older, but still I have to remember to put on the sunscreen as well as a hat!

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