News and announcements

Cancer Forum Editorial Board – changing of the guard

The Cancer Council Australia would like to thank Associate Professor Robyn Ward for her invaluable contribution as a member of the Cancer Forum Editorial Board over the past decade. Professor Ward stepped down from the Editorial Board at the end of 2004 to devote more time to her patients and research commitments.

Of course, with A/Professor Ward departing, the search was on to find an appropriate person to fill her sizeable shoes.

On that note, we welcome Dr Stephen Della-Fiorentina, who has kindly offered his services as a member of the Editorial Board. Dr Della-Fiorentina is a medical oncologist and currently is Director of the Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre and Interim Area Director of Medical Oncology South West Sydney Health Service. He works at Campbelltown, Liverpool and Bowral. He trained at Westmead and RPA. Dr Della-Fiorentina’s clinical interests are lung and breast cancer and he chairs the Research Committee and clinical trials units at Campbelltown and Liverpool hospitals. Outside of work he is married, a director of Bowral Bowling Club and patron of Bodyline Dance Academy in the Southern Highlands.

Productivity Commission advised of future squeeze on cancer dollar

Australia must invest more resources in cancer prevention and treatment infrastructure to prepare for a proportional increase in cancer incidence over the next 10 years, The Cancer Council Australia and Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA) have advised the Productivity Commission.

Responding to an open study into the impact of medical technology on healthcare expenditure and advances in Australia over the next 10 years, The Cancer Council Australia and COSA jointly highlighted looming concerns in the fight against cancer as our population ages in the decade ahead and beyond.

The submission focused on the prospect of a future inhabited by more Australians with cancer, yet fewer taxpayers to support the associated medical costs. This conclusion is based on the convergence of three key factors: that cancer is predominantly an older person’s disease; our population is forecast to age markedly over the next 10 years and beyond; and increased cancer incidence rates but reduced mortality rates in recent years suggest a trend towards greater numbers of cancer patients surviving for longer periods.

The Cancer Council Australia and COSA used the study to demonstrate the value of prevention and early detection in dramatically reducing future medical costs and how significantly improving Australia’s cancer treatment infrastructure would better prepare it for technological change.

Up to half of the cancers currently diagnosed in Australia are preventable or could be treated successfully if detected early using available technology.

However, unacceptably high numbers of Australians continue to engage in high-risk behaviours such as smoking, exposing their skin to harmful ultraviolet radiation, making poor dietary choices and being physically inactive. The submission outlined a number of evidence-based measures to boost cancer prevention through health promotion.

The Cancer Council Australia-COSA position on screening and early detection of major cancers was also put forward in the submission, while the case for improving treatment infrastructure to prepare for emerging technologies – such as genetic screening and treatment, PET imaging, and molecular pathology – was robustly stated.

The Productivity Commission’s draft preliminary report of the study is expected in April.

New position statements

The Cancer Council Australia has published three new position statements, Bowel cancer screening, Testicular cancer and State and territory travel and accommodation subsidy schemes.

Bowel cancer is the most common potentially fatal cancer affecting both men and women in Australia. The bowel cancer position statement reiterates The Cancer Council Australia’s call for a national bowel cancer screening program targeting all Australians aged 50 and over. (In the 2004 federal election campaign, both the Coalition and the Australian Labor Party committed to national screening programs to commence from 2008.)

The testicular cancer statement promotes the evidence-based view that the present level of community awareness of testicular cancer appears to appropriate and in proportion to current incidence and mortality rates.

The travel and accommodation schemes statement calls for a Commonwealth-funded taskforce to examine inequities in access to cancer treatment across jurisdictions and between rural and urban areas, with the ultimate aim of improving access to services for people in disadvantaged regions.

A number of Sunsmart position statements have also been updated, including:

  • Screening and early detection of skin cancer
  • Tinting of car glass and window glass
  • Fake tans
  • Solariums

Backyard now the extreme UV zone for Australians

From beach burns to backyard scorchings, The Cancer Council Australia has released initial findings from the first National Sun Survey that show Australians are almost twice as likely to get sunburnt at home than at the beach.

The Cancer Council revealed that almost one in five Australians were sunburnt on summer weekends.

Of those sunburnt, the survey showed that 32 per cent of Australians were burnt gardening or working around the home while 17 per cent were burnt at the beach or in the water. A further 24 per cent were burnt while enjoying outdoor activities such as picnics, BBQs and socialising.

Dr Andrew Penman, spokesperson for The Cancer Council Australia said, “Australians seem to be associating sun protection with the beach but not with their incidental outdoor activity. It takes as little as 15 minutes to burn in extreme UV radiation so covering up while pulling out the weeds or walking the dog is just as important.”

The survey found that 8 per cent of Australians went to the beach over the weekend, however, 29 per cent spent time gardening or working around the home.

“We know that sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer later in life so we want to urge all Australians to Slip! Slop! Slap! whenever they’re outdoors this summer,” Dr Penman said. “Find shade, wear light clothing, put on a hat and sunglasses and apply sunscreen regularly to exposed skin.”

According to The Cancer Council, skin cancer is predominantly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. However, sunburn isn’t the only cause – tanning or too much sun, year after year, can also lead to the disease. 

“Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. We hope these new findings will remind Australians not to be complacent when they’re out in the sun this summer,” said Dr Penman.

The National Sun Survey reveals the sun-related behaviours of more than 5000 Australian adults aged 18 to 69 during peak UV times on summer weekends in 2003-04.  The research was funded by the Cancer Councils across Australia and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

Australia takes lead in reducing cancer deaths – mortality rates lower than other developed nations

A new report, Cancer in Australia 2001, from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows that Australia has a lower cancer death rate than several other developed nations. The US, UK, Canada and New Zealand all recorded higher mortality rates than Australia.

The report has been welcomed by The Cancer Council Australia, which attributed much of the good news to population initiatives in prevention and early diagnosis and good access through Australia’s health system to advances in treatment.

The Cancer Council’s spokesman, Dr Andrew Penman, said the cancer death rate in Australia had fallen 17 per cent over 10 years and was now at its lowest level since records began in the 1970s.

“A significant part of Australia’s success has been due to comprehensive programs in prevention and early detection, Dr Penman said. “Our low death rate from lung cancer and other tobacco related cancer is a dividend from three decades of tobacco control which has seen smoking rates drop to the lower levels than comparison countries; while our comprehensive approach to screening for breast and cervical cancer means that our outcomes for these cancers compares very favourably.

“Prevention has delivered extraordinary value for money,” Dr. Penman said. “When you look at Australia’s lower rates of lung cancer incidence and mortality the argument is compelling – our death rates are 32 per cent lower than the US for males and a staggering 48 per cent for females. Although at 19,000 deaths from tobacco related disease each year, Australia still has a long way to go.”

While welcoming the declining death rates, Dr Penman also sounded a note of warning about cancers where mortality or incidence are higher than in other countries. “Australia, because of its climate and lifestyle, leads the world in its high rates of melanoma yet this is one cancer whose rates could be substantially reduced by effective sun protection. The good news from melanoma, is that, through early detection, we achieve a much higher survival than other countries. For instance percentage of people who survive melanoma in Australia to almost double that of the US.”

Dr Penman said that Australia’s good performance was not uniform across all cancers. “In contrast to our success in cervical and breast cancers, we have very high death rates from bowel cancer. An absolute priority for the nation is to expedite the rollout of a national bowel screening program, to which the Federal Government has declared its commitment.”

Cancer Council finds many Australians exposed by solariums

The Cancer Council Australia has released alarming statistics showing that over 290,000 Australians have been exposed to UV radiation in the past year due to solarium use.

“A solarium can emit UV radiation that is five times as strong as the midday summer sun,” said the Chair of the National Sun Survey Research Committee, Professor David Hill.

“Subjecting skin to the excessive amounts of UV radiation that solariums emit can be dangerous. It is important that the public understand that using solariums will increase exposure to UV radiation and risk of skin cancer.”

The research found the highest users of solariums were females aged 25 – 44 years. 

“It may be that more women in the 25 to 44 age group are working indoors and so have less opportunity to tan in the sun,” Professor Hill said. “They may also have more money available for solarium use than younger women.”

Recent studies have shown that there has been an explosion in the number of solariums in NSW and Victoria over the past 10 years. 

A voluntary code, the Australian and New Zealand Standard on Solaria for Cosmetic Purposes, is used to regulate the industry. Research released recently in Victoria showed that many of the regulations were not being met. This included solariums that were unsupervised, solariums that were providing access without written parental consent to clients under the age of 18 and access to fair skin clients who will never tan.

“We are particularly concerned about unsupervised solariums that are coin operated or self serve, and those found in Health and Fitness centres without trained staff,” said the Chair of The Cancer Council Australia’s National Skin Cancer Committee, Craig Sinclair. “These solariums provide very easy access with little or no prior information or guidance for customers.”

The Australasian College of Dermatologists spokesperson Dr Ian Hamann said Australia had the world’s worst skin cancer rates and if we did nothing to minimise the risk of excessive UV exposure, the incidence of skin cancer would continue to rise.

“There is recent research suggesting a link between solarium use and the development of melanoma,” Dr Hamann said.  “Melanoma is one of the most common cancers affecting young adults and can be life threatening. There is no safe way to tan the skin using either natural or artificial UV light.

“Skin cancer is a preventable disease and dermatologists are seeing these cancers in otherwise healthy adults in their twenties and thirties.”

The solarium data is a part of the National Sun Survey, which reveals the sun-related behaviours of more than 5000 Australian adults, aged 18 to 69 during peak UV times on summer weekends in 2003-04.  The research was funded by the Cancer Councils across Australia and the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.

Success again for Pink Ribbon Day

2004 was another successful year for Pink Ribbon Day. So far, the 2004 event has raised $1.7 million, surpassing the national target of $1.6 million, with donations still coming in. A fantastic result!

Essential to the success of Pink Ribbon Day is the relationship with national supporters, including: 3M, Amcal, Angus & Coote, Australian Hearing, BAE Systems, Basketball Australia, Best & Less, HIC Medicare, Miller’s Retail Group (including 1626, Crossroads, Katies and Silhouette), Rockmans and Sensis.

The funds raised will continue to support The Cancer Council Australia’s breast cancer research initiatives, education programs and support services.

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea – will this be a record-breaking year?

2005 will be a special year for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea – we aim to have a world-record breaking event!

The Cancer Council Australia has registered with Guinness World Records to break the record for the ‘World’s Largest Simultaneous Tea Party’.

We are very excited about this challenge and are confident that, with the Australian community’s support, we can enter the record books.

Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea also has a new look in 2005 – a fresh, modern logo has been introduced, accompanied by the new strapline: ‘Let’s get together for a cancer-free future’.

This year, more than a million people will participate in the event and we hope to raise over $7 million.

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