Getting your skin checked could save your life
Getting your skin checked could save your life Contributed

Sunshine Coast is a melanoma hot spot

WE'RE living in one of Queensland's melanoma hotspots - and have a higher chance of being diagnosed with the disease than people in Brisbane.

But health lobbyists believe more funding to fight skin cancer could save Sunshine Coast lives.

Cancer Council Queensland figures show 76 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with melanoma each year in the Sunshine Coast region, compared with 69 per 100,000 in Greater Brisbane.

Eight people per 100,000 die from the disease each year here and six people per 100,000 die in Brisbane.

About 430 melanomas are diagnosed and 50 people die from the disease each year in the Coast region.

National Rural Health Alliance chief executive Kim Webber  said skin cancer prevention campaigns were needed to target the specific culture in regional areas.

Ms Webber said the alliance was calling on the Federal Government to boost health services in rural and regional Australia because it was difficult for some people to access a GP, let alone a dermatologist.

"If you don't seek help early then your outcomes are worse," she said.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Chris Zappala  said it was a national concern melanoma rates were higher in regional areas.

"There are a number of contributing factors, one being that rural and regional areas tend to have more people who work outside and are regularly exposed to harsh UV rays," he said.

"Prevention and early intervention are the two most powerful tools we have in fighting skin cancer."

He said it was vital to reinforce sun safety messages through public health campaigns and education.

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley  said the Government was active in developing policy through Cancer Australia that had funding of $29 million a year.

"We are also taking giant strides to ensure the latest and most effective treatments are readily available," Ms Ley said.

This included $57 million in funding for the melanoma treatment drug Keytruda,  that cost up to $150,000 per patient without Commonwealth assistance, and $594 million for Mekinist.

Shadow assistant health minister Stephen Jones  said Labor would continue to support GPs and patients outside of major cities and their promise to unfreeze the Medicare rebate meant patients would not be slugged with extra expense.

"To reduce melanoma rates in remote, rural and regional Australia we need to encourage people to access these services."

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