Patients’ sun practices, perceptions of skin cancer and their risk of skin cancer in rural Australia

Background: Skin cancer affects nearly 1/3 Australians, with higher incidence and mortality in regional Australia and adults >65yrs. Little research exists examining this high-risk population’s skin cancer knowledge and sun behaviours, with most previous research conducted in urban Australia, overseas or focussed on sub-groups.
Objectives: Examine a regional Australian town’s adults' skin cancer knowledge and sun behaviours, determining if a knowledge difference between genders and age-groups exists.
Methods: Cross-sectional study design. Mudgee GP patients 18+yrs voluntarily completed a 20-question survey assessing skin cancer knowledge, risk factors, warning signs, and participant sun behaviours. Chi Square tests analysed responses.
Results: Of 179 participants 18-89yrs, 85.7% identified melanoma as skin cancer, only 30.7% BCC and 20.7% SCC. Females outnumbered males (1:1.67) and generally showed greater skin cancer knowledge, being significantly more likely than males to identify melanoma (p=0.006), BCC (p=0.011), SCC (p=0.026), some warning signs and risk factors. Males spent more time in the sun (p=0.014) and were less likely to use sunscreen (p=0.004). Those <60yrs had significantly greater awareness of melanoma (p<0.001) and some risk factor and warning signs than those >60yrs, and were more likely to use sunscreen (p=0.001) and sunglasses (p=0.012). Adequate sun protective measures were poorly utilised overall.
Conclusion: Overall poor non-melanoma skin cancer knowledge, risky sun behaviours and inadequate sun protection methods exists. Males and those at greatest current risk of skin cancer in Australia – older adults, especially >60yrs – have the poorest skin cancer knowledge and are less likely to use some recommended sun protection measures.

Ms Emily Sideris

I'm a PGY1 at John Hunter Hospital. After completing my law degree I studied Graduate Medicine at the University of Wollongong. With an interest in Dermatology and skin cancer in particular I decided to perform my final year research on the awareness of skin cancer in the regional town I was on placement in at the time. I hope to become a Dermatologist, and wish to contribute to the research surrounding skin cancer and how we can raise awareness in the public for its prevention and recognition.