Health experts warn that the rates of skin cancer – melanoma, is on the rise among elderly Victorians. This came out as new figures were released yesterday by Cancer Council Victoria that showed that Victorians aged over 55 accounted for two-thirds of melanoma diagnoses, and rural men were at highest risk. In 2008 a total of 2,217 Victorians were diagnosed with melanoma and 279 people died. Skin cancer rates have increased by 400 per cent in the past 26 years among older males.
According to Cancer Epidemiology Centre director Professor Graham Giles elderly Victorians were “’harvesting the melanomas sown in their youth”’, while melanoma rates were falling in those under 40 who had grown up with sun protection messages. Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Associate Professor Grant McArthur added that the increasing melanoma rates for older Victorians would drop off “as people brought up in the ‘slip, slop, slap’ era get older”. The SunSmart campaigns seem to have resonated most with those who have grown up with the message. In the past 20 years the melanoma rate for men under 40 has dropped by more than a third and for women under 40 by a quarter. He said vigilance was required to tackle the preventable cancer.