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Skin cancer survival rates are improving

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MORE than 50% of Islanders now survive for up to five years with advanced melanoma skin cancer due to improvements in treatment.

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A decade ago just one in 20 people living with serious melanoma would have expected to survive more than five years.

Dermatology consultant Dr Anna Kukula said: ‘In recent years there has been major progress in treating patients with advanced stages of malignant melanoma with immunotherapy, treatments designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight cancer. Promising results have come from a large study using the latest two immunotherapy drugs in the treatment of patients with advanced metastatic malignant melanoma.

‘Thanks to using a combination of the two new drugs over 50% of these patients now survive five years without disease recurrence. The two drugs have been made available to NHS patients following the fastest-ever approval process based on preliminary results of the recently published study. Both new drugs have already been used on Jersey patients and it can be expected that this will contribute to the improvement of survival rates.’

The number of new cases diagnosed in Jersey of malignant melanoma is 62% higher than in the south-west of the UK. However, the mortality rate is comparable to that of the UK. Dr Kukula said that the news of the results is positive, but the survival rates were also linked to when the disease is diagnosed.

She added: ‘As survival for melanoma skin cancer is strongly related to the stage of the disease at diagnosis, the most important [factors] remains the prophylaxis, early detection and fast surgical treatment. Many Jersey GPs have been trained and have solid experience in dermatoscopy so they can identify suspicious moles and refer them to a dermatology consultant for verification and treatment.’

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