Risking death for a suntan
By RENEE REDMOND and SAMANTHA TURNBULL
COREY Fox and Claire Ray are willing to risk the frightening new rates of melanoma on the North Coast for a tan.
They say you only live once and there are a lot of things that can kill you.
While they were sunbaking on Boulder Beach yesterday, the State Government released new statistics showing the incidence of melanoma on the North Coast has increased by 50 per cent over the past five years with 415 new cases reported in 2003.
By contrast, Southern NSW recorded a 10 per cent drop in new melanomas, while South West Sydney cases dropped by 40 per cent in 2003.
According to NSW Cancer Council figures, the Northern Rivers has the highest rate of skin cancer in the state and 59.8 in every 100,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma.
The State average is 40 cases in every 100,000 people.
Corey, 19, and Claire, 17, said most young people still hit the beach because they loved the look of brown skin.
However, the Sydney landscaper said he had booked in to see a skin specialist for a check-up next month.
"My twin brother is also a landscaper and he recently had two suspicious moles removed from his back which the doctors thought were melanomas," Corey said.
"We work all day in the sun. In summer we never wore shirts, but since he had the moles removed he does.
"I'm going for a check-up with some other guys from work. We thought we'd go every year to keep an eye on them."
Claire said she had friends who refused to wear high protection sunscreen.
"Ever since I was little my parents have made me put on sunscreen and I think it's important to wear it ? you still get a tan," she said.
"I have a friend who has pale skin but will only wear 'eight plus' sunscreen. Last time I went to the beach with her she burned the backs of her legs so badly she couldn't sit down.
"I have olive skin because of my Spanish background, so my skin tans easier."
NSW Assistant Health Minister Frank Sartor said local residents needed to become more sun smart.
"According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there is a 50 per cent chance this summer will be the hottest on record since 1950," he said.
"It is becoming more important for all Australians to ensure they are sufficiently protected from the harmful effects of too much sun exposure."
NSW Cancer Institute chief executive officer Jim Bishop said it was particularly important for parents to ensure their children were properly protected from the sun.
Professor Bishop said most teenagers still got burnt at least once each summer.
"Unprotected sun exposure before the age of 15 more than doubles your risk of getting skin cancer later in life," he said.
"The high rate of melanoma suggests that while we are aware of the risks of the sun, we are still suf- fering from too much sun exposure."
What is melanoma?
MELANOMAS start from the melanocytes, the cells in the skin that cause freckles, moles and produce the brown colour of a suntan.
Melanomas grow quickly.
If not treated, they can spread to the lower layer of skin, where cancer cells can escape and be carried to other parts of the body or lymph nodes.
The Cancer Council recommends reducing exposure to the sun as much as possible between 10am-3pm; wearing protective clothing that covers your skin, including your arms and legs; always wearing a hat; and applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.