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Skin cancer risks and sun safety in Australia

Source: Getty Images/Matteo Colombo

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Most skin cancers, including melanoma, occur after damage to skin cells from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Australia also has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, of the Australians living with cancer in 2017-18, nearly one in three had skin cancer, making this the most common type of cancer.

So, what is the reason behind the high rate of skin cancer in Australia? 

David Whiteman is the Group Leader at the Cancer Control Group and Deputy Director of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. He says a combination of factors is behind a high skin cancer prevalence in Australia.


 

Highlights

  • When ultraviolet radiation hits the skin, it starts to change the DNA of the most superficial cells, then cancer cells start to evolve — whether it be the milder cancer or life-threatening melanomas
  • Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, because of the way in which the Earth orbits the Sun in our summertime, the actual intensity of the Sun’s rays are stronger because we are a bit closer to the Sun 
  • Experts recommend that all Australians use multiple forms of sun protection when the UV level is 3 or above.  

 

“In the Southern Hemisphere, our country is located at fairly low latitudes, so the amount of sunlight that hits the ground in Australia is much higher than in Europe and Northern Asia and other parts of the world, like North America, so there is a lot of UV radiation striking the Earth’s surface where we live."

 

 

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