Article •  18/12/2023

Free skin checks at conference highlights troubling presence of skin cancer in regional Australia

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A BOOKED-out event offering free skin checks by a qualified dermatologist at a recent agricultural conference has highlighted the troubling prevalence of melanoma in regional and remote Australia.

Melanoma & Skin Cancer Advocacy Network (MSCAN), supported by Corteva Agriscience, conducted free skin checks over two days at the Nutrien Ag Solutions Conference on the Gold Coast on more than 50 attendees, with up to 25 lesions requiring follow up for potential skin cancers or melanoma.

Nutrien Ag Solutions Viticulture and Horticulture Account Manager, Nigel Squire, said he was glad he made the trip from Lyndoch, South Australia, to the conference, and was able to secure a booking for his first skin check. 

Dr Melissa Carroll from MSCAN
Dr Melissa Carroll from MSCAN

“I hadn’t had my skin checked before, and after working in the vineyards for years, I thought it was really important to get it done,” Mr Squire said.

MSCAN notes that two out of three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the age of 70, and those in rural and remote areas are at a particularly high risk of skin cancer due to demographics and occupation, as they often work in roles that spend lots of time outdoors. People that work outdoors receive up to 10 times more sun exposure than indoor workers.

MSCAN Founder and Director, Tamara Dawson, said considering the high prevalence of skin cancer in rural and regional Australia, it was incredible to witness how quickly appointments were filled.

“Australians living in rural and regional areas have greater challenges accessing healthcare,” Ms Dawson said.

“We know that it's hard to get in to see a GP and even more difficult to see a dermatologist. What really strikes me about these events is the people who come along are just so grateful.

“Appointments book out almost instantly, and this year, within 24 hours of publishing available time slots, every booking was taken.

“At this year’s event, a number of spots on the skin were identified that required a biopsy, reiterating the importance of skin cancer awareness in Australia, and the value of this program.”

Brisbane-based dermatologist, Dr Melissa Caroll, who conducted the skin checks said it was fulfilling to be able to provide the free service to rural and remote Australians and help make a difference.  

“This was my second time working with MSCAN and Corteva Agriscience on this initiative, and it was an important opportunity to not only identify spots on the skin that may have gone undetected, but also to be able to discuss sun protection and preventative measures,” Dr Caroll said.

“There were a handful of people that attended last year’s event who came back again for a skin check which was really great to see, and highlighted how wonderful this initiative is.”

Corteva Agriscience has supported MSCAN since 2022, first teaming up with the national charity to deliver free skin checks at the Coleambally NSW Active Farmers Games, and the Bridgewater VIC Active Farmers Run 4 Resilience, and has continued to sponsor this initiative in 2023.

Corteva Agriscience Communications & Sustainability Lead, Karen Deane, said given Corteva’s role in the agriculture industry, the decision to partner with MSCAN to offer free skin checks was a way to give back and show its commitment to supporting the community.

“Farmers in Australia have a 60 per cent higher death rate from melanoma compared to the general population,” Ms Deane said.

“These figures are alarming and highlight there is a real need for these communities to have access to life-saving healthcare, which is why Corteva is proud to sponsor the initiative, and I hope we are able to continue to do so in the years to come.”