Skin cancer prevention funding welcomed by Melanoma WA boss

Melanoma WA chief executive
Clinton Heal  at Avalon Beach.
Melanoma WA chief executive Clinton Heal at Avalon Beach.

FORMER West Australian of the year, skin cancer survivor and chief executive of Melanoma WA Clinton Heal has welcomed $288,500 in skin cancer prevention funding.

Health Minister John Day announced the funding for the Surfing WA skin cancer prevention program targeting young surfers last week.

New data has shown major drops in WA’s youth melanoma rates.

Mr Heal, of Mandurah, said great education starts when kids are young.

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Mr Day echoed the sentiment, saying research showed the importance of promoting the SunSmart message to young people involved in outdoor activities including Surfing WA’s Learn to Surf program.

“The data reveals that over the past 15 years, melanoma rates have more than halved among West Australians aged 15 to 39,” he said.

Young people today have grown up with sun protection campaigns like SunSmart.

“Melanoma is by far the most serious form of skin cancer and it is heartening to see that among young women, the incidence has fallen from 31 cases per 100,000 to just 13.

“With young men, there are now 10 cases per 100,000, down from 26, 15 years ago,” Mr Day said.

On the other hand, melanoma rates continue to increase in people aged over 60, the generation that had no early exposure to campaigns such as SunSmart or Slip, Slop, Slap.

Mr Heal said for kids under the age of 15 the sun smart message has become part of their lifestyle.

“Parents and grandparents didn’t have this messaging so they have to learn it,” he said.

“The messaging is not about avoiding going outside, just picking your times and knowing how to get outside safely.”

An avid surfer for most of his life, Mr Heal was diagnosed with melanoma at 22 and has had many skin cancers removed.

“It’s very likely sun exposure was the cause for me,” he said. “I wasn’t doing a bad job at protecting myself from the sun, but I could have been doing better.”

Mr Day said medication costs alone for treating stage 4 melanoma can exceed $150,000 per patient.

He said two in every three West Australians will develop skin cancer before they turn 70.