Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Why Australia is better than the USA, melanoma-wise

I had a melanoma excised from my scalp at the start of 2013, it was probably sitting there baking away for years. Out of sight, out of mind. Too many decades in the plentiful Australian sun, while surfing and elsewhere.

I visited a dermatologist for examination of a spot on my left thumb (which turned out to be benign), and he gave me a full skin examination. I asked about the lump on my scalp, for which the dermatologist took a biopsy. He rang me a few days later with the bad news that it was a dangerous well-developed melanoma that needed excision as soon as possible.

A week or so later I was on the operating table at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, under light anaesthetic, where I could feel the scalpel catting out a 5-centimetre wide circle of flesh from the top left side of my noggin. Then I felt some sort of sharp, whirring surgical gadget sliced off a thin patch of skin from the upper inside portion of my right arm, and this donor graft was stitched onto my scalp.

Life’s full of surprises: a few weeks earlier I hadn’t the slightest inkling that I would be experiencing this novel event!

So for a few years I’ve been living with a pale circle on pink hairless skSt. Anthony of Padua in that really stands out against my greying but still mainly mousy-brown hair.

I tell people that I have a SETI antenna built into my scalp, and am aiding in the search fro intelligent life in far places. .. Perhaps I could claim that it’s a tiny tonsure, but I wouldn’t have the gall to claim so since I’m neither devout or humble, unlike my patron saint pictured to the right. (Click the image to find out more.)

As you might expect, over the last few years I’ve been attending regular skin checks, and have had a couple of less aggressive skin cancer sports excised too. As you might expect, I’m now extremely aware of skin cancer in all its manifestations.

Anyway, on to the topic of this blog post. Australia has now in all states banned commercial tanning beds (solariums), which we found to have been responsible for too many deaths -- though anything more than zero deaths is of course too many. There is some concern that non-commercial (private) solariums are increasing in number, buts that’s a different problem needing to be solved and at least the commercial ones are illegal here Down Under.

But sadly the US seems to be way behind Australia in the way that solariums are regarded, see US melanoma rates are rising faster for women than for men — indoor tanning may explain why and take heed (in the USA or any other country where solariums are used, at home or in parlours).

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