As Australians, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we lead the world in many arenas, such as sport, science, business and the arts. Unfortunately we also lead the world in another area that is not so desirable. As the nation with the highest incidence of melanoma, it’s high time we turned the tide.
It can start as a seemingly innocuous spot on the skin, but can quickly develop into one of the most aggressive and potentially deadly diseases. Melanoma affects more Australians per capita than any other country in the world. In fact there are 30 cases diagnosed every day* and in 2009 there were 48,364 Australians living with the disease**.
Melanoma is projected to make up a massive 10.2% of all cancer diagnoses in Australia for 2015** and to underscore its seriousness, an expected 1,160 males and 515 females will die from it in 2015**.
Why is it so prevalent here?
The sunny climate is certainly a starting point, but genetic and lifestyle factors compound the risks considerably. The simple fact is that Melanoma risk increases with exposure to UV radiation. That means excessive exposure to the sun that causes sunburn, will impact on your chances of contracting it – particularly if the exposure is while you are young.
The high proportion of people with fair skin, freckles, light eye colour and light or red hair also affects the high incidence rate. A first degree relative who has had melanoma will also increase your risk of contracting it.
Easy ways to reduce the risks
Despite the increased awareness of the risk factors, almost 14% of adults, 24% of teenagers and 8% of children are sunburnt on an average summer weekend***. This highlights the need to follow the well-known prevention routine; slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. This is still the best primary defence and has now been supplemented with further advice to ‘seek some shade’ and ‘slide on some sunglasses’.
Early diagnosis makes a big difference
Even the most sun-safe person still needs to be aware of the early warning signs of a melanoma. Checking yourself regularly for the appearance of a new spot, or a change in an existing freckle or mole is the start, but you also need to be checked professionally on a regular basis too, either by your GP, a Skin Cancer Clinic or a Dermatologist.
An excellent reference for self-checking can be found in the ‘Preventing Melanoma‘ section of the Melanoma Institute of Australia website.
Good news on treatment and survival
A five stage rating system is used to define the extent and development of the cancer and treatment options vary depending on the stage the cancer has reached. This may be limited to surgery and excision if it is detected in early stage, but may also include radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drug treatments if it is more advanced.
It’s a relief to know that of those suffering skin cancers in Australia, 90% have a chance of surviving for 5 years** and complete cure is possible, but success relies heavily on early detection and hence the need for regular check-ups.
Being prepared to fight the disease
Having the financial resources to obtain the best treatment and to adjust your lifestyle and work situation is an important part of facing diseases such as melanoma. A well-planned personal risk management strategy should include insurance protection that pays you a lump sum benefit for specific trauma conditions, such as Early Stage Melanoma.
Trauma insurance is an ideal way to help fight the financial impacts of cancer because it pays a lump sum benefit, which you can use to pay off debts, supplement your income protection, fund a sabbatical, or any other purpose you choose.
Your adviser can help you to plan your risk protection strategy to give you the financial means to help you focus on getting better.