Studies show severity of skin cancer can be down to thickness

HOPE of surviving a melanoma diagnosis can come down to a few millimetres.

The thicker a melanoma is, the poorer the prospect of survival, and research from Cancer Council Queensland shows thick melanoma is on the rise across Australia.

A CCQ study shows while the incidence of thin (less than or equal to 1mm) melanoma stabilised between 1996 and 2006, rates of thick (more than 4mm) melanoma continued to increase between 1990 and 2006.

In the 17 years surveyed, 2635 Australian women and 4446 Australian men were diagnosed with thick melanoma - 4.3% and 5.7% of all melanomas respectively.

Increased melanoma tumour thickness is the strongest predictor of poor survival in melanoma patients, both in Australia and internationally.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said about 3000 melanomas were diagnosed in Queensland every year.

"Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world - about 300 people die from a melanoma diagnosis every year," Ms Clift said.

"Queenslanders diagnosed with melanoma under 1mm in thickness have close to a 100% relative survival rate, compared to 58% survival rate for tumours over 4mm."

Cancer Council Queensland encourages all Queenslanders to check their skin regularly.