Karrinyup: loss of brother to melanoma spurs Karen Ong on successful journey of skin cancer prevention


Karen Ong has started a successful skin cancer detection business Spotscreen. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Karen Ong has started a successful skin cancer detection business Spotscreen. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

AFTER losing her brother to melanoma, the severity of Australia’s skin cancer problem hit home for Karen Ong.

“It made me realise it really does impact everyone in the community; it doesn’t just happen to everyone else it happens to all of us,” Ms Ong said.

“After he died, six months after, the first job that popped up was skin cancer screening.

“I thought that’s where I want to be in the preventative stage.”

Nine years later, her Karrinyup mole screening business Spotscreen took out the national award for Professional Medical Services at the Small Business Champion Awards this year .

Ms Ong said the mobile screening business had gone from strength to strength.

“We’ve gone from having three of us over a kitchen table to growing to up to 13-15 staff so we do skin cancer screening and provide other health and wellness programs,” she said.

“We estimate we save over 100 people at year with melanoma that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed.

Ms Ong also saw success with her internationally circulated book The Number 1 Guide to Preventing Skin Cancer, which provides tips and information about sun safety, mole identification and ultraviolet radiation.

“Talking to over so many people it was a case of repeating myself every time, people weren’t aware of a lot of things so I thought I’ll just out it into a book,” she said.

“It really snowballed from a small business to the book which has been fantastic hopefully to developing programs to reduce the rates of skin cancers.”

Ms Ong said she hoped to grow the business more and have the ability to set up a clinic as well as a mobile clinic.

“Skin cancer is often overlooked as you don’t have a symptom, people go to the doctor if they have a flu or temperature but with skin cancer people put it off,” she said.

“Teenagers really need to have this drummed into them as well as workplaces and sporting clubs really need to take an ownership of safety for the people in their clubs and workplaces, they think about injuries but not the exposure to radiation.”

KAREN’S TOP SUN SAFETY TIPS:

– Have a mole check every 12 months

-Don’t underestimate Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR)

-Cover up even in winter and wear protective clothing in summer

-Wear sun cream: “There is a misconception that sunscreen causes cancer; there is absolutely no evidence to prove that.”

“World Health Organisation (WHO) said even a factor 15 you’re still getting the same vitamin d that if you used none.”

-You are still exposed to UVR in the car or in the shade and tinted windows only block out about 70 per cent

-You are getting the same amount of UVR over winter as you can on a summers day