Queenslanders downplay deadly melanoma risk
Up to one in four Queenslanders significantly underestimate their risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma, a study has found.
And those at highest risk - people aged over 65, of European ancestry, with high numbers of moles and fair skin - are worst at predicting their chances of getting the skin cancers, Queensland researchers have found.
The QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute scientists analysed data from almost 42,000 Queenslanders who participated in the ongoing QSkin study into skin cancer risks
They asked participants to self-assess their chances of developing melanoma and compared their answers to a QIMR Berghofer-developed risk prediction tool for the skin cancer.
Study author Catherine Olsen said the researchers were "surprised" by the findings, given Queensland's status as the melanoma capital of the world and Australia's iconic "slip, slop, slap" campaigns.
Study participants filled out a survey where they estimated how likely they thought they were to develop melanoma at some point in their lives.
Possible answers were "highly unlikely", "somewhat unlikely", "about the same as other Queenslanders", "somewhat more likely" and "highly likely".
Associate Professor Olsen said 22.4 per cent of the participants underestimated their risk of melanoma by at least two levels compared to 9.5 per cent who over-estimated their likelihood of developing the skin cancer.
About two-thirds of those who significantly underestimated their risk of melanoma also reported a past history of the more common skin cancers - basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas - suggesting they would benefit from counselling by their treating clinician about their future risk of the more deadly skin cancer.
The researchers repeated their analysis in a larger population sample of more than 178,000 people, who used the online QSkin risk assessment tool.
They found 11 per cent of that group significantly underestimated their chances of developing melanoma.
"In the absence of population screening, targeted early detection for melanoma depends on those at high risk presenting for physician skin checks," the researchers wrote in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, which published the study today.
Professor Olsen and co-author Professor David Whiteman, the QIMR Berghofer Deputy Director, said regardless of Queenslanders' perceived melanoma risk, they should continue to be sun safe by covering up when outside, using sunscreen daily, wearing a hat and sunglasses and seeking shade, where possible.
Their research was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
To access the online melanoma prediction test: https://publications.qimrberghofer.edu.au/Custom/QSkinMelanomaRisk
Originally published as Queenslanders downplay deadly melanoma risk