Gavin's story - a deadly warning to reassess 'cool'

November 17, 2014

The tragedy of losing his younger brother to melanoma just over a year ago has inspired a Perth tradesman to help prevent further deaths from skin cancer.
 
Gavin Roediger was 30 years of age when he passed away just six months after being diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Gavin’s brother Scott said it was brutal to see the impact the disease had on him and that Gavin was way too young to die.

Scott, who has operated his own carpentry business for the last 12 years, said knowing two other people who have died of melanoma in the last year has fueled his passion for promoting awareness about skin cancer.

“Rather than attending more funerals for people who have died from this disease I want to put my energy into preventing further deaths from melanoma,” Scott said.

Working in the building industry for all of his working life has made Scott particularly keen to get the message out to young tradies.

“I know loads of young blokes who think they’re bullet proof and are more interested in ‘being cool’ rather than wearing a hat or shirt in summer.

“I think we have to start changing attitudes and make more people understand that it’s cool to cover up in the sun.

“I’d like to help young blokes realise it’s cool to have sunscreen slapped over your face and it doesn’t matter what you look like, but it’s not cool to have to go to hospital and have cancer,” he said.

Scott said too many people don’t understand the long term effects of sun exposure.

“I just want to help more people to be smarter in the sun and I know Gav wanted that too,” he said. 

Scott is sharing Gavin’s story as part of Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Action Week commencing today to remind all Australians about how sun protection and skin awareness can be a lifesaver when it comes to skin cancer.

The latest report from the WA Cancer Registry showed in 2012, 696 men were diagnosed with melanoma compared to 453 women. In the same year 85 men died from melanoma compared to 21 women.

“It’s a worrying fact that more men get skin cancer and men are more likely to die from the disease,” Cancer Council WA’s Director of Education and Research, Terry Slevin said.

“Gavin’s story is a powerful reminder than no one is invincible when it comes to skin cancer.”

Mr Slevin said while the focus of National Skin Cancer Action Week was on teens who have been shown in new data to have developed healthier attitudes towards tanning, there is still room for improvement

Research released today shows 38 per cent of young Australians (aged 12-17 years) like to get a sun tan, compared to 60 per cent 10 years ago.

However, the survey also showed teens were still not doing enough to protect themselves from the sun. “Twenty-three per cent of adolescents are still sunburnt on summer weekends, a figure which shows no significant change since 2003-04.

“Young apprentices in the building industry fall into this category and we know large numbers of them aren’t doing enough to protect themselves,” said Mr Slevin. 

Mr Slevin said although two in three Australians would be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70, adolescents underestimated their skin cancer risk, with one in two rating their chances of developing skin cancer as ‘low’.

Dermatologist and Chair of the WA Faculty of the Australasian College of Dermatologists, Dr Ernest Tan, reminded young people that getting to know their skin was an important part of being sun safe.

“Make a habit of keeping an eye on your skin and getting to know what ‘normal’ is for you. It doesn’t take long and it can make the difference between early detection and not knowing until it’s too late. If you notice any changes, see your doctor because early detection of skin cancer almost always means it can be successfully treated.”

The Cancer Council recommends following five SunSmart steps to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer:
1.    Slip on sun protective clothing
2.    Slop on SPF 30+ sunscreen
3.    Slap on a hat
4.    Seek shade
5.    Slide on some sunglasses


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