Thursday, November 06, 2008

Skin Cancer

The co-driver and I went to the local skin cancer clinic for a check up. These dedicated clinics are springing up everywhere around Australia because the country has the highest incidence of this disease in the world. It is a lifestyle thing with outdoor recreation and activities being extremely popular. When I was growing up, surfing was my passion and the beach was my second home. We were baked brown by the sun continuously year after year. Protection in those days was virtually unheard of or even considered a bit wimpy.
As a result, for the last 25 years, I can't remember the number of cancers or pre cancers I have had cut out or burnt off my back, face and arms.
Here are some statistics:
-Over 380,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer each year. That’s over 1,000 people every day.
-Over 1,600 Australians die from skin cancer each year.
-Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. Skin cancers account for around 80% of all new cancers diagnosed each year in Australia. Each year Australians are four times more likely to develop a common skin cancer than any other form of cancer.
-The melanoma incidence rates in Australia and New Zealand are around four times as high as those found in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Federal and State governments have made a concerted effort to make generations after mine aware of the dangers of unprotected exposure to the sun and have instigated intensive publicity campaigns that include:
The SunSmart UV Alert:
This is reported daily in newspaper weather forecasts across Australia. The alert is used to raise public awareness of the risk of exposure to UV radiation and to encourage people to adopt appropriate sun protection measures.
The Famous "slip, slop, slap" Campaign:
Slip on clothing that provides a barrier between UV rays and the skin.
Slop on sunscreen, 30SPF or greater
Slap on a hat that shades the face, eyes and neck.
Then added to this was
Seek Shade which is one of the most effective ways to protect against the sun's UV rays.
Slide on Sunglasses to protect UV rays damaging eyes.
All childcare facilities as well as primary and secondary schools throughout the country and numerous workplaces have adopted an ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection program to help prevent skin cancer. Recreational and sporting organizations also participate.
The top layer of skin contains three different types of cells: squamous, basal and melanocytes. Skin cancer is a disease of these skin cells caused mainly by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation.
UV radiation disrupts the cells' genes and can cause them to grow abnormally. If these abnormal cells are not destroyed by the body's natural defence systems they can develop into skin cancers.
There are three main types of skin cancer named after the type of cells they start from.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are known as common skin cancers .
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is deadly.
So here are some pictures of the three types.
Check yourself out or better still get a professional to do it.
Basal Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The previous bad experiences have led me to take protective measures by wearing a hat outside, swimming in the early morning or late afternoon, covering up when working in the vineyards and even applying sun tan lotion (when I remember). But I was expecting to have to be "burnt" and cut up a bit more after this doctor's visit. But apart from a few pre cancerous growths getting the liquid nitrogen treatment on the spot all was good.
And the co driver got the all clear too!

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