Researchers at Southern Cross University have launched an Australian-first study to determine the rates and types of skin cancers among surfers, swimmers and stand up paddle boarders (SUPs). The study, a joint initiative with John Flynn Hospital on the Gold Coast, is offering free skin checks at locations in Tugun and Mullumbimby to year-round water lovers aged 18 years and over.
Participants in the study will be asked to complete a research questionnaire, according to project leader Dr Mike Climstein, senior lecturer in Clinical Exercise Physiology at SCU’s Gold Coast campus.
In 2016 Dr Climstein conducted an online self-reporting study that found the rate of melanomas among surfers was up to three times higher than the rest of the Australian general population.
“This latest research will lead to a more accurate snapshot by conducting specialist skin checks which in turn will lead to a more accurate determination of the prevalence and types of skin cancers - rather than relying on people’s memory,” Dr Climstein said.
“Last time with the online survey a number of participants reported skin cancer but they couldn’t remember what type it was, be it basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, which underestimates the true prevalence of skin cancers,” he said.
“This time we’ve got Honours student Brendan Doyle and a number of specialists and surgeons involved in the initiative, where the skin check and questionnaire go together. They are doing this at no cost to participants as long as they are regular surfers, swimmers and SUPs, so price is not a barrier to getting involved.
“We will also determine which prevention strategies are most effective based on the answers of those who have no history of sun cancer.
“The more people involved the better the research will be.”
The Cancer Council Queensland Nicknamed regards the Gold Coast as the 'skin cancer capital in the world’, with rates being among the highest per capita.
About one-third of all Australian have had skin cancer at some time in their lives and about 1,700 Australians are expected to die as a result of melanoma this year.
Surfers, swimmers and SUPs are high-risk due to long periods of exposure to ultraviolet radiation and wearing less clothing. Reflection from the water, in particular, is of great concern Dr Climstein said.
“This is a good reminder for people to be sun smart and use hats, sunscreen and clothing to cover up, even during the winter months,” he added.
Participants from the NSW North Coast and the Gold Coast are invited to take part. The study involves a single visit to a skin cancer screening centre at either Tugun or Mullumbimby where participants complete a questionnaire followed by the free skin cancer screening. The Initiative runs until October 2020.