Skin cancer, or melanoma, is the abnormal behavior of skin cells that is mainly caused by prolonged exposure of unprotected skin to the ultraviolet rays. UV radiation from both the sun and sunbeds is equally harmful, and the chances to get this disease are based on several risk factors, such as fair skin, red hair, blue eyes, and genetic factors (Lai, Cranwell, & Sinclair, 2017). Melanoma causes a large number of premature deaths, loss of health due to disability status, and massive expenditures on healthcare. This is the most common type of cancer in the world, and Australia has the highest rates of this disease, with 48 cases per 100,000 people in 2010 (Apalla, Lallas, Sotiriou, Lazaridou and Ioannides, 2017). This epidemic pushed doctors, sociologists, and scientists to come up with an effective solution to reduce the spread of epidermal cancers. The following essay reviews this health issue and analyzes current skin cancer prevention methods and initiatives in Australia.
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The importance of this issue was underestimated until the 1970s. However, since then, through population-wide health campaigns and programs, the number of adverse outcomes has been on the decline (Shih, Carter, Heward, & Sinclair, 2017). Cheng, Weber, Feletto, Smith and Yu (2018) state that the most susceptible region in the world is Queensland, Australia, based on its combination of “a largely Caucasian population, high ambient UV radiation, and an outdoor lifestyle” (p. 10). The “Slip-Slop-Slap” campaign was created as the first attempt to bring public attention to the issue and educate people about this topic.
In the past few decades, the Australian government has launched several campaigns against skin cancer. However, these initiatives met multiple obstacles during their resolution. According to Fennell et al. (2017), “a demographic group at particular risk of morbidity from skin cancer are those living away from capital cities in inner regional, outer regional, remote, and very remote areas of Australia” (p. 2). The “Slip-Slop-Slap” and further campaigns, such as SunSmart, and “Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek & Slide” are focused on influencing people’s behavior under UV radiation.
Mass media serves as the primary communication source between campaigning organizations and Australian citizens, with multiple television and Internet advertisements, news articles, and other informational tools involved. The target audience was surveyed along with campaign progress to analyze its effectiveness. Annual sunburn rates, skin lesion reports, and melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) cases were compared among all years. Doran et al. (2016) provide statistics that show that “relative to the counterfactual (i.e., no campaigns) there are an estimated 885 fewer cases of melanoma and 12,289 fewer cases of NMSC (10,159 BCC and 2,130 SCC) over the period 2006–2013” (p. 5). Their findings also suggest that economic value from averted cases of skin cancer in direct and indirect savings for the government constitute a total of $67,552,874 (Doran et al., 2016). The review by Brunssen, Waldmann, Eisemann and Katalinic (2016) provides similar statistics on lowered mortality rates during campaigning years. Therefore, these campaigns alone are cost-effective, and indeed improve public health.
Personal beliefs, traditions, and behavior play a significant role in negating risk factors of skin cancer. It is important to note that skin cancer awareness campaigns put an additional effort to promote proper behavior in youth. However, Hamilton et al. (2017) state that “parents’ intention to participate in sun-protective behavior for their child” still plays a decisive role in this approach (p. 2). They suggest that perhaps the focus of these campaigns should prioritize changing the role models of children’s parents (Hamilton et al., 2017). Therefore, educational efforts should include all ages equally, and awareness must be acquired from both parents and doctors.
Survival from melanoma highly depends on the stage it was revealed at (Brunssen et al., 2017). Adelson and Eckert (2020) state that “currently in Australia, population-based screening for skin cancer is not performed due to a lack of evidence either for or against population-based screening”, however, “opportunistic screening is common” (p. 26). Therefore, my suggestion would be to include early screenings for skin cancer, at least in identified risk groups. It should also prove helpful to teach people to detect signaling issues, such as skin lesions, as a mandatory course in educational facilities.
The technology could also provide a useful means for skin cancer prevention. Abbott and Smith (2018) suggest that “several software companies are currently working to integrate artificial intelligence into medical practice,” which can be used for early detection and lesion recognition (p. 1). It is also possible to train neural networks to help people with identification and calculation of risk chances autonomically.
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In conclusion, skin cancer remains a significant health problem for Australia. However, the measures taken by the government have proven to be useful in its amelioration, and trends show a further reduction of melanoma and other skin cancer cases. There are still challenges remaining that impede efforts to fix the problem, but new methods in skin cancer detection could negate the issue. While the population slowly lowers skin cancer occurrences by modifying group behavior, the implementation of mandatory early screenings could reduce the number of fatal outcomes.
Abbott, L. M., & Smith, S. D. (2018). Smartphone apps for skin cancer diagnosis: Implications for patients and practitioners. Australasian Journal of Dermatology, 59(3), 168–170.
Adelson, P., & Eckert, M. (2020). Skin cancer in regional, rural and remote Australia; opportunities for service improvement through technological advances and interdisciplinary care. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 37(2).
Apalla, Z., Lallas, A., Sotiriou, E., Lazaridou, E., & Ioannides, D. (2017). Epidemiological trends in skin cancer. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual, 7(2), 1–6.
Brunssen, A., Waldmann, A., Eisemann, N., & Katalinic, A. (2017). Impact of skin cancer screening and secondary prevention campaigns on skin cancer incidence and mortality: A systematic review. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 76(1), 129–139.
Cheng, E., Weber, M., Feletto, E., Smith, M., & Yu, X. (2018). Cancer burden and control in Australia: Lessons learnt and challenges remaining. Annals of Cancer Epidemiology, 2(3).
Doran, C. M., Ling, R., Byrnes, J., Crane, M., Shakeshaft, A. P., Searles, A., & Perez, D. (2016). Benefit cost analysis of three skin cancer public education mass-media campaigns implemented in New South Wales, Australia. PloS One, 11(1), e0147665.
Fennell, K., Martin, K., Wilson, C., Trennery, C., Sharplin, G., & Dollman, J. (2017) Barriers to seeking help for skin cancer detection in rural Australia. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 6(19).
Hamilton, K., Kirkpatrick, A., Rebar, A., White, K., & Hagger, M. (2017). Protecting young children against skin cancer: Parental beliefs, roles, and regret. Psycho-Oncology, 26(12), 2135–2141.
Lai, V., Cranwell, W., & Sinclair, R., Epidemiology of skin cancer in the mature patient. Clinics in Dermatology 36(2).
Shih, S., Carter, R., Heward, S., & Sinclair, C. (2017). Economic evaluation of future skin cancer prevention in Australia. Preventive Medicine, 99, 7–12.