Low angle view of three generations carrying surfboards
Low angle view of three generations carrying surfboards

UNCOOL: Surfers and swimmers get 6 times more skin cancer

NEW research has revealed that surfers, swimmers and stand-up paddle boarders get melanoma at least six times the rate of the general population.

According to a Southern Cross University study, the findings are based on the analysis of more than 180 ocean users from the Gold Coast and the NSW North Coast who volunteered for skin checks as part of the project.

Among them were some of the world's top-ranked surfers.

Other skin cancers detected, including non-melanoma basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, were also significantly increased compared to other Australians.

Of the 182 participants screened during phase-one earlier this year, almost half (41.3 per cent) were identified as having pre-malignant or malignant skin cancers.

SCU Associate Professor in Clinical Exercise Physiology and study project leader, Dr Mike Climstein, said the phase-one results were "quite startling."

"With summer just around the corner we hope it encourages people to be more mindful of the risks of skin cancer when outdoors, and consider getting a total body skin check," he said.

"Overall, our results show a significantly higher prevalence of premalignant and malignant skin cancers in surfers, swimmers and stand-up paddle boarders compared to the Australian general population."

Dr Climstein said the greatest concern was the melanoma rate detected which is six-fold higher compared to the melanoma rate in the Australian general population due to the dangerous levels of UV exposure contained in sunlight while being outdoors and people not using sufficient-enough protective measures during that time.

For phase-two, the research team is developing a more extensive and comprehensive study that will detect melanomas much earlier for people who are regular ocean users.

Skin checks will be offered to a larger group, with the analysis bolstered by cutting-edge total body photography to monitor participants with a large number of moles.

The researchers are seeking industry support to purchase the total body photography scanner to conduct the second phase of the study, as well as ongoing biomedical analyses.

SCU Adjunct Associate Professor Michael Stapelberg, a specialist general practitioner with a focus on skin cancer and dermatology, has been performing the skin checks.

Interested organisations can contact the researchers directly on 07 5601 0495 or email Professor Stapelberg at michael@skincancerpractice.com.au