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Australia headed for melanoma ‘tsunami’

An “incoming tsunami” of melanoma cases is predicted for Australia in the coming decades, prompting calls for further training for doctors to help with diagnosis.

The forecasts are based on recently published research, which showed global cases of melanoma are expected to grow by 50 per cent, and deaths will increase by 68 per cent in the next 20 years.

“It’s a red flag for us to look forward and say, are we prepared for what’s incoming?” Queensland-based radiation epidemiologist Michael Kimlin told AAP on Tuesday.

“Presently, Australia has the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world by far.

“That’s due to our predominantly fair skin population, our outdoor lifestyle, but most importantly, our massive levels of ultraviolet radiation, which is a major risk factor for skin cancer and melanoma.”

Prof Kimlin said his colleagues are concerned over a “looming skill shortage in Australia to address this incoming tsunami”.

Australia’s ageing population means more people will continue to present with skin cancers, he said.

Treating an Australian patient with stage III/IV melanoma costs more than $100,000 a year, according to a recent study by Associate Professor Louisa Gordon.

Prof Kimlin said early detection and prevention remained the best way to reduce the escalating costs.

He also called for a national conversation about creating workforce standards for GPs to help them detect skin cancers.

It was important GPs were trained in contemporary detection techniques, but patients also needed to feel confident their doctors knew how to diagnose skin cancer.

“We need to also think about what will a workforce look like – is it going to be GPs?

“How are we going to work with our professions and specialist services?”

More than two thirds of Australians will receive treatment for a skin cancer at some point in their lives, according to new research from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

The research found some 69 per cent of Australians – 73 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women – will have at least one skin cancer cut out during their lives.

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