Are you in Australia’s highest-risk group for skin cancer?

Children in Australia are drilled on the slip-slop-slap; sun protection is in our genes, yet skin cancer is still the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia. New research has now highlighted the most high-risk group of Australians when it comes to skin cancer, and the answer is not who you might be expecting.

Scientists from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have tallied up the numbers to find the most at-risk group of skin cancer. If you’re expecting the answer to be young, fair-skinned women, prepare for a surprise: the most likely Aussie to have skin cancer is a Queensland man over the age of 55.

But even more interesting (and potentially more harmful) was the fact that of the 4% of Australians over 20 who had a skin cancer removed, almost half of them had more than one cancer excised.

In general, more men than women had more than one cancer removed, and Queenslanders were significantly more likely to have multiple skin cancers.

“This study is the most comprehensive picture of the occurrence of these cancers by age, sex, state and prior history of skin cancer,” said Prof David Whiteman, QIMR Berghofer Cancer Control Group leader.

“Our results show that by the age of 70 years, around half of all Australian men treated for skin cancer will have another excision within four years. In Queensland, rates were nearly twice the national average and almost three-fold higher than Victoria and Tasmania.

“The reported rates are very high when compared on a global scale and underscore the sheer size of the skin cancer burden within the Australian population.”

The message here couldn’t be clearer, especially as we head into the hottest seasons: take the necessary sun care precautions when you’re outdoors (in the sun or in the shade), nourish your sun-damaged skin and keep an eye on your skin and go to the doctor if you notice anything unusual.