A national medical congress has warned that Australia is facing a skills shortage to deal with the predicted rise in melanoma rates over the next 20 years.
Radiation epidemiologist Professor Michael Kimlin said at the annual Australasian Skin Cancer Congress that skin cancers were expected to increase by 50 per cent and deaths would rise by 68 per cent over the next two decades.
With 60 per cent of skin cancers most likely amongst people aged over 50 years, this leaves Tasmania's ageing population at increased risk.
According to recent statistics by the Cancer Council, melanomas are one of the top five most common cancers in Tasmania, which has the second-highest rate of cancer diagnosis in the country.
Professor Kimlin said in a statement this week that as costs rose for individuals with more than one skin cancer, associated health care, economic, and social costs would rise exponentially in the future.
"With our ageing population, more and more Australians are going to be presenting with more and more skin cancers,'' Professor Kimlin said.
But he said that a skills shortage in detecting melanomas and skin cancer, as well as rising medical costs were barriers to addressing the crisis.
"Skin cancers impose the highest costs of any cancer on the Australian health system and prevention and early detection remain the most cost-effective ways to reduce those escalating costs," Professor Kimlin said.
A recent study by Associate Professor Louisa Gordon estimated the cost of treating an Australian patient with stage three or four melanoma is more than $100,000 per year.
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With Australia recording some of the highest skin cancer diagnosis rates in the world, Professor Kimlin said prevention was the most cost-effective way to avoid unnecessary deaths and the ballooning costs to the health system.
In order for prevention to happen, he said GPs needed to be trained in contemporary detection and treatment techniques through formal accreditation systems.
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