St Helens doctor urges residents to be vigilant about skin cancer

Shot of a young girl in swimwear running up to her parents while they relax on beach chairs

With Skin Cancer Action Week commencing 19 November, and with Australia having one of the world’s highest skin cancer rates[1], a new St Helens doctor who has just spent 17 years in the Northern Territory dealing with skin cancers among the mining community is urging residents to reduce their risks with some simple precautions.

GPs across Australia have more than a million consultations with patients about skin cancer every year. Skin cancer accounts for around 80 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers,  and an estimated two in three Australians will be diagnosed with it by age 70, while more than 2000 die from it annually.[2]

Dr Colin Smith is a GP at Ochre Medical Centre St Helens with a strong interest in skin cancer and dermatology. Colin recently moved with his wife, who is a nurse, from Australia’s hottest region – Arnhem Land in the remote Northern Territory – to one of Australia’s coldest regions, Tasmania.

He says, “Tasmania might be the closest part of Australia to Antarctica, but St Helens residents are not free from skin cancer risks. In my first two weeks in St Helens I have already seen half a dozen skin cancer cases.”

Dr Colin says residents need to be aware of, and be extremely vigilant when monitoring risk factors such as prolonged sun exposure. Around 95 per cent of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. “It’s important to cover up in the sun, and keep an eye on changes to your skin, such as new lesions, the size and shape of pre-existing moles, and pigmentation of moles and dark freckles.

“Check your skin regularly, especially sun exposed areas – but don’t forget that melanoma can appear anywhere. If you notice any changes, or if you have a skin type that burns easily, get it checked by your GP or a dermatologist.

“A history of peeling, blistering skin and repeated sunburn can also increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Common risk areas including nose, ears, lips and backs of hands.”

While melanoma is the most common cancer in young Australians (15-39-year-olds) making up 20 per cent of all cancer cases[3], Dr Colin says as we get older, other forms of skin cancer become much more common.

Dr Colin is currently available for skin checks among St Helens patients.

Ochre Medical Centre St Helens is located at 11 Pendrigh Place, St Helens. To book an appointment, call (03) 6376 1777 or visit to book online.


[1] Cancer Council 2017:

[2] Cancer Council 2017:

[3] Melanoma Institute of Australia 2017:


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