Australia is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning sunny weather, with Australians spending much of their free time outdoors enjoying both. However, being crowned the “sunburnt country” comes at a cost.
This week marks Skin Cancer Action Week, which serves as a timely reminder to all Australians of the harsh reality of too much unprotected sun exposure.
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is Australia’s most common cancer. At nearly five times the incidence of all other cancers combined, almost one million new cases of NMSC are treated across the country each year, with at least 2 in 3 Australians diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70.
The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to UV radiation, which leads to over 95 per cent of skin cancer cases. According to Cancer Council Australia, when unprotected skin is exposed to UV radiation, the structure and behaviour of skin cells can change, and NMSC can subsequently develop.
For Australia’s forgotten sunburnt generation, years spent in the sun without any form of protection, and in some cases, the use of tanning oils that enhance the damage caused by UV radiation, has meant they’re now paying a significant price.
Each year, NMSC costs the Medicare Benefits Scheme (MBS) upwards of $700 million, but for many Australians living with the disease, the burden stems from the untold physical, mental and emotional impacts caused by decades of symptoms and scarring from sun damage.
There are many types of treatments for NMSC, including topical creams and freezing, with surgery being the most common method of management and considered the gold standard treatment. However, an innovative radiation therapy is delivering another safe and effective treatment option for Australians living with NMSC, who are not good candidates for surgical or other treatments.
Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT) is a cutting-edge radiation technology being rolled out across GenesisCare clinics in Australia as a non-invasive therapy option for NMSC. VMAT is a technique that is personalised to the individual, conforming to the body’s curved surfaces to protect critical organs. With NMSC commonly occurring in highly visible areas such as the face, head, chest, shoulders, upper back or arms, symptoms and scarring caused by NMSC and some treatments can severely impact a patient’s quality of life. VMAT can provide suitable patients with an alternative option to treat their skin cancers, which can ultimately minimise the physical, mental and emotional impacts from the disease and improve their quality of life.
Most skin cancer patients will tell you, prevention is best, and being diligent about sun safety can significantly reduce the long-term consequences of overexposure to the sun. But when the damage is already done, patients are grateful for a range of options when treating their skin cancers.