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TUH staff embrace true-blue awareness raising

Published:  28 April 2021

A group of Townsville University Hospital staff is taking a much-loved Aussie icon and moving it indoors to raise awareness for skin cancer prevention during the month of April.

Recruitment specialist Helene Fotinos said staff would wear their Akubra hats to work every Friday to help spark a conversation.

“Some of us were having coffee and realised we all had loved ones affected by melanoma and talked about how important it was to get serious about sun safety,” Helene said.

“We discussed ways we kept ourselves sun safe and realised we all had a fondness for the old Akubra so divined an idea where we all wear our hats to work on a Friday to start a conversation about sun safety.”

Helene said the first time they wore their hats they garnered some funny looks.

“We’ve had people ask why we were wearing them which was a great opening to educate about the importance of keeping safe in the sun,” Helene said.

Townsville University Hospital radiation oncologist Dr Madhavi Chilkuri applauded the idea.

“Anything that helps prevent skin cancer is a great idea in my book,” Dr Chilkuri said.

“Australia is the melanoma capital of the world, with one diagnosis in Australia almost every half an hour.

“It’s the most common cancer affecting 15 to 39 year olds and, devastatingly, one Australian every five hours will die from melanoma.”

Dr Chilkuri said by far the most effective treatment was prevention.

“The most effective thing you can do is to practise sun safety at all times, particularly for young children,” she said.

“This means avoiding the sun during the hottest parts of the day, and wearing sunscreen, clothing and a hat when you’re outside, even on cloudy days.”

Dr Chilkuri said melanoma was very treatable if caught early.

“By catching it early, removing a melanoma is very simple and can even be done in your local GP’s office,” she said.

“I’d encourage everyone to incorporate a regular skin check into an annual GP check-up and keep an eye out for any new moles or existing moles that have recently changed in appearance.

“If you have any concerns, book an appointment with your GP and get it checked out; it might save your life.”

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