Up to one third of new cancers diagnosed in Australia are potentially preventable. Being SunSmart, quitting smoking, engaging in regular physical activity, eating for health, limiting alcohol intake and maintaining a healthy weight—these are some of the simple acts that make a huge impact toward reducing the risk of a future cancer diagnosis.
Participating in cancer screening programs can further reduce the risk of cancer, or increase the chance of survival if cancer is found.
Protecting the next generation from UV
This past year, ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection has remained a top priority. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70 and despite being highly preventable, melanoma remains the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in South Australia and the most common cancer in Australians aged 15–29 years.
Now in its 20th year, the National SunSmart Schools and Early Childhood Program continues to provide leadership in skin cancer prevention, policy and practice within South Australian schools and early childhood centres. This year we welcomed 69 new members into the program, which now protects children from 793 SunSmart schools, early childhood centres and out of school hours care services across South Australia.
Further, our promotions during National Safe Work Month and efforts delivering SunSmart workplace education ensure that adults who work outdoors and have high UV exposure levels are educated about their skin cancer risks and equipped with the tools to enable them to protect their skin and their long-term health.
Initiatives for National Skin Cancer Action Week and media campaigns like UV Daily with Sonny Burns and UV. It All Adds Up. combined with promotion of the Cancer Council SunSmart app, mean that more and more South Australians are hearing the message and understanding that they need to slip, slop, slap, seek and slide when the UV is 3 and above.
Driving down smoking rates
In the past year, we’ve seen a number of smoking cessation wins: the number of young people who smoke has dropped by over four per cent; regional smoking rates have dropped by over six per cent; and exposure to passive smoking has also dropped by over six per cent—thanks to advocacy work to close loopholes in alfresco dining legislation.
Finding cancer early
Cancer Council SA recommends taking part in regular bowel, breast, and cervical cancer screening tests, which will help to catch cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective.
In December 2017, we worked with stakeholders to promote the new and more effective Cervical Screening Test which replaced the old Pap smear. According to Cancer Council research, this move is expected to reduce cervical cancer incidence and mortality by at least 20 per cent.
Through our promotion of Bowel Cancer Screening Month in June, we supported 68 general practices across South Australia to encourage their patients to get screened; sent a personal email to our many thousands of supporters aged 50 and over to remind them to complete the National Bowel Cancer Screening Test every two years; and reached over 12,000 people with our messages on social media.Further, advocacy achieved funding to decrease wait times for follow-up colonoscopies.
With our presence in the community, we continue to encourage more women aged 50 and over attend to their free two-yearly mammogram with BreastScreen SA.
Empowered to lead a healthy lifestyle
Cancer Council SA representatives travel throughout the state to lead tailored education sessions which help people learn how they can take action to minimise their cancer risk. These sessions may take place in a number of settings, from community groups to schools or workplaces and are inclusive of our culturally and linguistically diverse and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, focusing on topics like smoking, UV and cancer screening. A trip to the Riverland in March saw us engage with 18 local schools, health centres, community groups, workplaces and regional councils to promote our messages via presentations and resource distribution. Other regional areas we have visited this year include Victor Harbour, Mount Barker, Nuriootpa, Gawler, Tanunda, Clare and Murray Bridge.
It’s never too early, nor too late, to make the changes that will improve your future health. And every day, through our education sessions, our community campaigns and our outreach work, we are helping to spread this important message. It’s the potential to save lives and create cancer free communities that drives our team every day.
General Manager, Services, Research and Public Policy
Cancer Council SA