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Skin cancer found earlier, says expert

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MORE skin cancer cases are being detected and dealt with earlier and the Island’s rising rates are proportionate to the rest of the world, according to an expert.

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Earlier this week, a freedom of information request showed that 1,000 people a year had been diagnosed with skin cancer during the past three years.

However, consultant dermatologist Dr Anna Kukula said the figures are overestimated because the same patient may have been diagnosed with one or more cancers in the same year.

She said new audit figures for 2018 had revealed 57 new diagnoses of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, with the total number of new diagnoses for 2018 being 600.

And she added that more cases were being detected earlier because of increased awareness, but there was still more that people could do to cut down their chances of developing skin cancer.

‘Another interesting finding in the recent 2018 audit of skin cancer multi-disciplinary team meetings records was a high proportion of so called in-situ melanoma diagnoses, identified and cut out early enough before they turn into invasive cancer,’ she said.

‘There were 39 cases of in-situ melanoma in 2018 records and this reflects well on both the increasing public awareness and the high level of many of our GPs experience with assessing the suspicious lesions.

‘With approximately 600 new skin cancer cases diagnosed last year the rates of skin cancer in Jersey are still about 60% higher than in the south-west of the UK.

‘We are continuously improving the knowledge of healthcare professionals, but the only way to markedly reduce the rates is to improve awareness and change the behaviours of our population.’

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Dr Kukula, who has worked in Jersey for three years, has issued five recommendations for people to stay safe – seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, generously applying sun cream, avoiding tanning beds and regularly self-examining skin. She has also called on authorities to consider banning the use of tanning beds for Islanders under 18.

The consultant said there were a number of reasons why Jersey has a higher rate of skin cancer. She said: ‘Jersey is a coastal area so there is a higher UV reflecting off the water, sand and buildings. The majority of Jersey people have fair skin. Many of us spend time outdoors running, biking, sailing or working and the other reason is that Jersey’s population is an ageing one.

‘It is important to regularly use sunscreens with an SPF factor of 30 or higher, also on the cloudy days. Special attention should be given to protecting children from getting sunburned.’

She added that there was no need for tanning beds in Jersey as an island with plenty of sun and that ‘if someone under the age of 35 has one tanning session, it increases their chances of melanoma by 75%’.

‘The skin cancer rates are rising around 10% per year in line with the rest of the world,’ she said. ‘Many countries have introduced a ban on people under the age of 18 using sun beds.’

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