Dr David Smith
Dr David Smith

Rainbow Beach GP urges skin checks

RAINBOW Beach GP David Smith has seen 30 cases of melanomas and skin cancers in the past 12 months.

Dr Smith says like other Australians - and Queenslanders in particular - the small sun-loving population of Rainbow Beach is exposed to very high levels of UV radiation.

As Rainbow gears up for this weekend's melanoma fundraiser, Pig Day Out, Dr Smith urges all Gympie region residents to book themselves in for a skin check.

He also wants the coast's many backpackers to be sun safe.

"Many visitors to our shores feel compelled to return home with tanned skin as evidence of a holiday in an exotic location," he said.

"Local baby boomers were brought up the same way.

"My post-war parents pursued the outdoor lifestyle in a hedonistic way.

"And the consequences of a lifetime of sun exposure are skin cancers in its various expressions."

Dr Smith said Australia had the highest incidence of melanoma in the world.

"It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among adolescents and young adults, accounting for more than one-quarter of all cancers among Australians aged 15-29 years.

"Most Australians are aware of the typical image of a large blue-black skin lesion, but things are not always so black and white.

"The melanoma I frequently see is a particular subtype related to chronic heavy sun exposure - it is called a lentiginous melanoma.

"In its early stages it looks like a flat tan patch on the upper back or shoulders.

"It generally doesn't raise suspicion because the skin is covered in all sorts of tan patches and the initial growth is slow. Some may have been present for years and appear unchanged.

"I hope to catch them in the early stages, confined to the upper level of the skin."

Unfortunately, Dr Smith also sees level four melanomas.

"These tumours are capable of invading organs, such as the brain or lungs," he said.

Damage to the DNA of skin cells can occur early in life.

"A child's skin is delicate and sensitive and is much more easily damaged. It is a parent's responsibility to provide protection and education."

"In Australia we have had some effective programs, such as the Slip, Slop, Slap message.

"In Europe they don't have the public education we have here and neither do they have GPs with training and experience in skin cancers and melanomas.

"Over there, it is the realm of a specialist dermatologist."


what can you do

n Regular self-examination and assistance from a partner or friend to inspect inaccessible areas of skin is important.

n Any new or changing lesion should definitely be checked by a professional.

n Level one lesions can be cut out, but advanced tumours may require alternative treatment.

n "Modern technology and drugs are having an impact, but there is a long way to go," warns Dr Smith. "The rate of melanoma is still rising, research is crucial."

n So book yourself in for a skin check and come to the Rainbow Beach Pig Day Out and help raise money for the Australian Melanoma Research Foundation.

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