It’s the world’s deadliest skin cancer, and many Queenslanders are unaware it even exists, writes Katie Clift from Cancer Council Queensland.
And no – we’re not talking about melanoma. Around 60 per cent of Queenslanders diagnosed with this type of skin cancer will die within five years, compared to just seven per cent of melanoma patients.
It’s rare, aggressive, fast-growing and deadly. It’s called Merkel cell carcinoma.
Merkel cell carcinomas can appear on the skin quite quickly, often as a firm, painless lump, and incidence rates are at least twice as high in Queensland than anywhere else in the world.
New Cancer Council research also shows that Queenslanders diagnosed with the deadly cancer experience more than double the expected number of subsequent primary cancers — including melanoma, lip, lung, head and neck cancers.
The stats show an increased risk of developing female breast cancer and kidney cancer following a Merkel cell carcinoma diagnosis — and that people diagnosed initially with leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer are also at a higher risk of getting the deadly skin cancer.
As with all skin cancers – early detection is key to survival.
All Queenslanders should get to know their own skin — if you notice a new spot or lesion, or an existing spot or lesion change in shape, colour or size, that’s a call to visit your GP immediately.
As we head into summer, it’s vitally important to schedule a skin check (whether a self-examination or by visiting your GP) in order to spot any changes and reduce your risk of cancer.
In the case of Merkel cell carcinoma, it can be difficult to identify, and is sometimes confused with other skin lesions.
CCQ’s research highlights the need for the development of clinical practice guidelines that aid in the diagnosis and management of the disease.
With the inevitability of summer heatwaves, and the UV index peaking from early until late in the day, do yourself a favour and get to know your own skin.
The Sunshine State is known as the skin cancer capital of the world — a title we will only relinquish with individual action.
Our survival guide for summer is simple — beat the heat, stay out of the sun and check your skin.