A Quarter of Queenslanders Underestimate Their Risk of Melanoma, Says New Research

The residents of Queensland, while blessed with beautiful beaches and weather to boot, also underestimate their risk of developing melanoma. Almost a quarter of Queenslanders, in fact.

A study conducted by researchers at Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute asked 42,000 participants to rate their melanoma risk based on personal factors like sun sensitivity and according to the Canberra Times, many misjudged the likelihood of them developing skin cancer.

“We found almost 24 per cent of respondents underestimated their risk of melanoma by at least two levels,” said deputy director David Whiteman. “Worryingly the people most likely to underestimate their risk level were people who have important risk factors.”

These people with risk factors included men of European ancestry aged over 65 who had fair, sun-sensitive skin and quite a few moles.

“We were surprised to find that this group was also more likely to be university educated and have a history of skin cancer removals and treatments,” Professor Whiteman said.

Roughly 10% of the participants surveyed overestimated their level of melanoma risk while more than 28,500 people correctly judged their melanoma risk category, or were only one category off the correct one.

The study also found that the sun, coupled with smoking and the consumption of alcohol, were all risk factors for Queensland residents developing keratoacanthoma tumours, a common form of skin cancer which roughly 5,000 adult Queenslanders develop each year.

“If Queenslanders protected themselves better against the sun, stopped smoking and drank within the recommended alcohol guidelines, we could potentially see a drop in these skin tumours,” senior study author and researcher Catherine Olsen said.

According to Dr Olsen, consuming more than 14 alcoholic drinks per week puts Queenslanders at greater risk of developing these tumours.

No matter how low people think the risk of developing skin cancer is, Professor Olsen says everyone around the country should be practising sun safety. According to the ABC, with 283 days of sunshine every year, Brisbane is Australia’s warmest state capital and as such, it’s residents should slip, slop, slap every day.

“Cover-up, use sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses and find shade,” Professor Olsen said.

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