What you might not know about Melanoma

By December 11, 2013Melanoma

Editorial Provided by AIA Insurancesun

The presence of a fair-skinned population in Australia has resulted in a country that has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, especially melanomas[1]. Whilst melanomas are not the most common form of skin cancer, they are the most life-threatening.

It is hard to convey the human toll and suffering of a disease purely by reproducing statistics, but the ones about melanomas provide sober reading in their own right. The following are some statistics about melanomas of the skin in Australia:

Incidence and statistics

-Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer and melanomas in the world, with Queensland having the highest incidence in Australia[2]

-Melanoma makes up only 2.3% of all skin cancers but is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. In 2007, there were 10,342 new reported cases of melanomas in Australia and 1,279 deaths from it.[3]

-Melanomas were the most commonly diagnosed cancer among adolescents and young adults between 2003 and 2007; it accounted for more than one-quarter of all cancers in this age group[4].

-In 2008, the incidence rate of melanomas of the skin in Australia (37 cases per 100,000 people) was nearly thirteen times higher than the average world rate (3 cases per 100,000 people)[5];

– It is estimated that approximately 200 melanomas and 34,000 non-melanoma skin cancers per year are caused by occupational exposures in Australia.[6]

Sun Protection

“Slip Slop Slap” campaigns have for many years tried to educate the population about the high risks of skin cancer in Australia.[8] Whilst they achieved success in educating generations of Australians about risks of environmental sun exposure, the use of sun tanning beds and solariums (non-environmental UV exposure) rose in popularity for a variety of personal, cosmetic and societal reasons. This has been most true in the young and predominantly female user groups.

The influential World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) released a report in 2009 where they advised that UV emitting tanning devices “were carcinogenic (cancer causing) to humans” when previously it was felt that they were “probably carcinogenic”. They estimated that the risk of developing a melanoma of the skin increased by 75% when the use of tanning devices starts before the age of 30.[9]

Impact on life and quality of living

Respecting the enormous human cost associated with developing a melanoma, it is also instructive to frame the economic burden the disease causes the community.

One measure of this are DALYs or “Disability-Adjusted Life-Year”. DALYs can be thought of as years of healthy life lost, either through premature death or through living with disability due to illness or injury. This is the basis unit used in burden of disease or injury estimates. Melanoma of the skin were estimated to account for 22,300 DALYs in Australia in 2010; of these 16,800 were years lost due to premature death and 5,400 were years of healthy life lost due to disease, disability or injury.[11]

Protect yourself

 Crisis Recovery benefits, also known as Trauma Insurance, pays a lump sum benefit usually up to $2,000,000, should you be diagnosed with a specified illness like cancer and provided that you otherwise satisfy the terms and conditions for payment.

These funds can help pay off the mortgage, pay medical bills and meet the myriad of other financial stresses that inevitably arise allowing you to concentrate on recovering.

When taking out insurance, ask your adviser for a company which offers good melanoma definitions, which will give you greater peace of mind if you ever need to make a claim for skin cancer. It’s very important to consider Crisis Recovery as part of your life insurance portfolio.

 

[1] AIHW 2010. Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. Cat. no. CAN 56. Canberra: AIHW www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=644247268

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australasian Association of Cancer Registries (2004). AIHW cat. no. CAN 23. Canberra, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442467673

[3] AIHW 2010. Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. Cat. no. CAN 56. Canberra: AIHW www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=644247268;

[4] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Cancer in adolescents and young adults in Australia. Cancer series no 62. Cat no CAN 59. Canberra: AIHW, 2011.

 

[5] AIHW 2010. Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. Cat. no. CAN 56. Canberra: AIHW www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=644247268;

[6] Fritschi L, Driscoll T. Cancer due to occupation in Australia. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health 2006; 30: 213–9.

[11] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010. Cancer in Australia 2010: an overview. Cancer series no. 60. Cat. no. CAN 56. Canberra: AIHW

 

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