Skin Cancer in Australia Essay

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Skin Cancer in Australia

Skin cancer is a significant public health issue in Australia. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun in the UVA and UVB wavelengths is the primary cause. Australia has been a world leader in efforts to protect the ozone layer, the main line of defense against ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. Ultraviolet radiation induces the formation of thymine dimers that cause mutation of skin cells if not repaired before DNA replication. Mutations of tumor suppressor genes can lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Ultraviolet radiation also causes immunosuppresion that allows skin cancers to become established. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are types of skin cancer caused
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Numerous studies have been conducted in Australia on many aspects of skin cancer including those on the molecular biology of the cancer cells, ultraviolet-induced mutagenesis, social and behavioral aspects of skin cancer risk, and the effectiveness of government programs to combat cancer.

Ultraviolet Radiation and the Ozone Layer

Ultraviolet radiation is divided into three types based on wavelength. UVA radiation is the longest wavelength, 315-400 nm, and is just slightly shorter than visible light. UVB is radiation of wavelength 280-315 nm. UVC, the highest energy radiation, has wavelength below 280nm (de Gruijl 1999). Each of these forms of ultraviolet radiation is harmful to living cells.

The primary line of defense against harmful ultraviolet radiation is the ozone layer in the stratosphere, 15 to 30 km above the surface of the earth (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage 2003). Approximately 2 billion years ago, molecular oxygen produced by early life on earth began to increase the atmospheric O2 content. Molecular oxygen in the upper atmosphere absorbs short-wave UVC radiation and decomposes to form singlet oxygen, O. When these O atoms encounter molecular oxygen (O2) molecules, they react to form ozone, O3. The O3 molecules absorb UVB radiation up to about 310 nm in wavelength.

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