Skin cancer diagnoses swell in surfers

man surfing

Carmel Sparke

31 May 2016

People who surf should be extra vigilant regarding skin checks, with a study showing one in 7 Australian surfers have had a skin cancer.

Almost 14 per cent of 1348 surfers surveyed had already had a skin cancer diagnosed or been treated by a doctor, yet their average age was just 36.

The study looked at both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers, finding that 1.4 per cent of the surfers had had a melanoma and almost 7 per cent a BCC (basal cell carcinoma).

 “. . .  based upon our findings, they [surfers] appear to be at increased risk of developing either a non-melanoma and/or melanoma skin cancer,” the researchers said.

The online survey of surfers across Australia found skin cancers were most commonly identified on the face, back and arms, while the feet, thigh and neck had the lowest number.

In female surfers, most skin cancers were found on the back, followed by the face, then shoulders and arms. They had significantly fewer skin cancers around the top of the head, face, ears and necks than men and their longer hair could be a factor in this, the researchers suggested.

Women in the study had fewer cancers than men, which was not surprising as they had not surfed for as many years, the study authors said.

Years spent surfing had the greatest Impact on a surfer’s chance of developing a skin cancer, while professional surfers were found to have a higher incidence than recreational surfers.

Lead author Associate Professor Mike Climstein, an exercise physiologist at Bond University, Queensland, said surfers could account for a high proportion of skin cancers in Australia given the popularity of the sport and the high burden of skin cancers found among surfers.

“Screenings are important preventative measures, as GP screening examinations have previously been shown to be effective in reducing premature death from skin cancers,” he and his co-researchers suggested.

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