My Queensland: Joanne Aitken

As the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes, and Joanne Aitken is one of those unsung heroes in Australian society.

As one of the leading cancer researchers in the country, her work at Cancer Council Queensland has saved possibly thousands of lives.

Joanne shares with us some of the latest initiatives at Cancer Council Queensland and what drives her to do her amazing work.

Full transcript of Joanne Aitken’s My Queensland:

My name is Joanne Aitken. I work at the Cancer Council Queensland and I’m a cancer researcher. I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to do cancer research and find out all that we can about cancer.

A lot of the work that I do is in skin cancer, and that makes sense because it’s the most common cancer in Queensland, and one that we all need to be aware of.

Queensland is a fantastic place to live and a wonderful destination. We’ve got rainforest, we’ve got desert, we’ve got bush, we’ve got beach, we’ve got cities. We’ve got an outdoor lifestyle, I suppose, more than almost any other country in the world. So we’re extremely lucky.

Skin cancer, in general, is caused predominantly by exposure to the sun over a very long period of time–twenty years sometimes, or even longer, that can develop into skin cancer. So in Queensland, we have a lot of sun; we have a fabulous lifestyle. But unfortunately we also have a lot of skin cancer. In fact, more skin cancer than anywhere else in the world.

Something that we’re really proud of that we’ve done recently is the Australian Cancer Atlas.

This is something that Cancer Council Queensland did in collaboration with our research partners at QUT and Frontier SI, it’s now called. And it’s the first time in the world that we’ve got an interactive, colourful digital map of where cancer occurs all over Australia and what the survival statistics are.

Everybody can actually look at it on their mobile phones and that’s really the first step to start that conversation. And then we can start to do something about it or do more about it than what we already are.

What that red patch tells us on the map is that southeast Queensland has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the country. It’s not all bad news, though, because it also means that people are very aware of this disease. We know that the earlier skin cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcome.

But my hobby and my passion when I’m at home is planting trees. I love to be outdoors. I love to listen to the birds and improve the environment. And I try to do that by putting as many trees in as I can.

Of course, it’s so important if you are doing any sort of outdoor activity to make sure that you protect yourself from the sun. So try to stay out of the sun in the middle of the day. Even on an overcast day, the UV index in Queensland is high, so it’s important to use sun protection.

I use a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and I try to stay in the shade if I can.

What really inspires me about my job is that we’ve made such progress. We’ve learned so much about cancer over the past 20 years. We are so far ahead now than where we were. It’s all come through research. Daffodil Day 2019 is coming up. If you’d like to get involved by Daffodil, give money to research and we’ll have a cancer-free future.

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