Under-40s bucking the trend on skin cancer

QUEENSLANDERS under the age of 40 are bucking a worldwide trend, with rates of invasive melanoma significantly decreasing on the most-commonly diagnosed body sites.

A recent study published by Cancer Council Queensland* is the first indication of the emerging success of sun protection campaigns in Australia based on site-specific trends.

While international studies report the greatest increase in melanoma incidence occurs on intermittently exposed body sites (such as the trunk, arms and/or legs), rates are decreasing among young Queenslanders.

The study found rates of invasive melanoma on the trunk and upper/lower limbs are decreasing significantly in Queenslanders under the age of 40.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said the research suggested both sexes were taking sun protection seriously.

"This research shows Queenslanders under the age of 40 are perhaps becoming more vigilant about protecting their skin from increased sun exposure," Ms Clift said.

"Rates of melanoma for Queenslanders in this age bracket are generally highest on body parts not frequently exposed to the sun.

"Global trends over the past few decades show lifestyle changes have contributed to this increase in melanoma incidence on intermittently exposed body sites."

Overall, rates of invasive melanoma decreased by 3.8 per cent per year for males under 40 between 1997 and 2008, and 3.4 per cent per year for females under 40 between 2000 and 2008.

Rates of invasive melanoma on the trunk declined by 6 per cent per year for males since the late 90s. On the upper limbs, rates of melanoma dropped by about 1 per cent per year since 1988 for males, and since 1982 for females.

"Fashion trends have seen clothing coverage reduce, and there has been a popularity spike in recreational sun exposure," Ms Clift said.

"The decrease we're seeing in invasive melanoma rates among young Queenslanders is perhaps indicative of this age group adopting sun protective behaviours.

"It suggests Queenslanders are covering up these less-frequently exposed body parts, perhaps avoiding the sun at peak UV times and using sunscreen appropriately to prevent skin cancer.

"We encourage all Queenslanders to Slip on protective clothing, Slop on SPF30 or above broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunglasses.

Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. 133,000 non-melanoma and 3000 melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in the sunshine state each year.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at

Topics:  cancer council queensland melanoma skin cancer slip slop slap sun protection

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