Australians are being urged to mark the start of summer by joining a national day of action to check their skin for changes and seek medical attention if they notice anything new or changing.
The plea from Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA), the world’s largest research and treatment institute with a single focus on melanoma and complex skin cancers, comes after alarming figures showed the number of new patients attending the specialist centre for treatment had dropped to a 12-year low.
New patient numbers dropped by 18% in 2020 and likely 20% in 2021, compared to pre-pandemic rates (2019), sparking fears COVID lockdowns had deterred patients from seeking potentially life-saving medical treatment.
‘This drop in numbers doesn’t mean less Australians actually have melanoma, rather that they haven’t been diagnosed yet due to COVID delaying them seeking medical treatment,’ said Melanoma Institute Australia CEO Matthew Browne.
‘Now is the time to play catch-up, with Aussies urged to take action on 1st December and check their own skin, and importantly, seek medical advice if they notice anything new or changing.’
Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world, with one person dying every 6 hours from the disease. Melanoma is also the most common cancer in 20 to 39-year-olds. The first sign of melanoma is often a new or changing spot or mole on the skin.
If caught early 90% of melanomas can be cured with surgery alone, but if left undetected, melanoma can quickly spread to organs including the lungs, liver and brain. There are fears this drop in new patients may result in a spike in lives lost to the disease in the coming few years.
So concerned was MIA, it brought forward the launch of its cheeky Aussie awareness campaign, ‘Game On Mole’, which urges Australians to take photos of their skin and monitor for any changes.
‘If we are to counter this COVID impact, it is critical that the start of summer is a day of action for all Australians to check their skin, and seek medical advice if necessary,’ said Matthew Browne. ‘A few minutes spent checking your skin regularly could just save your life.’
Read more about how to check your skin and changes to look for at gameonmole.com.au