This year, the Victorian Melanoma Service (VMS) at The Alfred has seen a significant drop in referrals. But cases of melanoma have not dropped – prompting specialists to urge all Victorians to act now before it’s too late.
Each year, the VMS sees more than 1000 Victorians with melanoma. It remains the most common cancer in Australians aged 15-39 – and it can be deadly. Associate Professor Victoria Mar, Director of the VMS, said as we are coming into summer, now is the time to know your melanoma risk and act on it.
“Coming into summer, the UV level is climbing and we can get caught out on overcast days when the UV level is high and we can get burnt really easily. It’s so important to protect your skin from the sun at this time of year,” A/Prof Mar said.
“It’s also really important to know your own skin, and know your own risk. We like you to be checking your skin at the turn of each season, so you remember what you saw last time and you can act on any changes.”
If you do notice any changes, growths or spots that don’t look right, A/Prof Mar said it was vital to book an appointment with your GP. They can refer you to seek specialist care if needed.
For people in regional areas, options including Telehealth are available.
David Davies, a farmer from Hay in NSW, knows firsthand how crucial seeking care at the right time can be.
Having spent most of his life outdoors, David knew the importance of getting regular skin checks. When he developed a melanoma under his eye, he was able to see Victorian Melanoma Service’s Professor John Kelly, who diagnosed the melanoma and organised treatment to have it removed.
It wasn’t until 10 years on that David received devastating news: he had a stage IV melanoma that had spread to his stomach and brain. It was then that Professor Kelly stepped in to save his life.
Requiring radiation therapy, David also took part in a two-year clinical trial. David considers himself very fortunate to be alive.
“I am convinced that the treatment trial that Professor Kelly enlisted me in saved my life,” David said.
“I am one of the lucky ones. Despite skin cancer being so prevalent in Australia, there is still a lack of awareness about just how aggressive some forms of the cancer can be.”
Visit the risk calculator on the VMS website to work out your risk, and give yourself the best defence against melanoma.