Calls to monitor skin cancer – Press

The front page of today’s Press featured scientists calling on the Ministry of Health to better monitor skin cancers.

Dermatologist checking mole for melanomaAn excerpt (read in full here):

Thousands of lives could be at risk from a skin cancer epidemic, with experts pleading with the Ministry of Health to take action.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is estimated to cost New Zealand $123 million a year but specialists and the Cancer Society say data collection on the disease stopped in 1958.

An estimated 67,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers every year. That is 97 per cent of all skin cancers and accounted for more than four times the number of all other cancers combined.

The Cancer Society’s deputy chief executive and health promotion manager, Dr Jan Pearson, wrote to the ministry in May asking it to start counting non-melanoma cases, saying the knowledge gap meant the financial and human cost was unknown.

Melanoma, the most fatal type of skin cancer, is monitored.

According to the ministry’s latest cancer statistics, 2341 people were diagnosed with it in 2010 and it killed 324 people.

Pearson said 454 people were registered as dying of skin cancer that year, so about 130 people died of non-melanoma skin cancer.

Dr Swee Tan, executive director of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute and a Hutt Hospital consultant plastic surgeon, is one of many cancer specialists backing calls for the ministry to start monitoring non-melanoma skin cancer cases.

Cases would increase because of our ageing population until sun-safety measures that started about 30 years ago began reducing the number, he said.

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