Skin Cancer Awareness Week
Israeli men are becoming increasingly more likely than women to develop skin cancer, according to the Health Ministry. Photo by Haaretz
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Israeli men are becoming increasingly more likely than women to develop skin cancer, the Health Ministry stated ahead of skin cancer awareness week.

Up until the mid-1990s, melanoma was more common among women than men, but now the figure has been reversed − today, 31 percent more men are diagnosed than women.

In 2000, only 14 percent more men were diagnosed.

In 2008, 1,300 new cases of skin cancer were diagnosed.

“There are probably 100 more cases this year than there were last year,” said Dr. Micha Barchana, director of the Israel National Cancer Registry.

One in 34 Jewish men develops melanoma, as does one in 50 Jewish women. The skin cancer rate is considerably lower in the Arab sector.

Also, native Israelis have a higher chance of developing skin cancer than immigrants.
Thirty-six percent of skin cancer cases are diagnosed during the early stages, which is more than three times the rate in the early 1990s. This is largely due to several skin cancer awareness campaigns initiated by the Israel Cancer Association.

“Early diagnosis saves lives − it raises the chance of recovery to 90% or more,” said association director Miri Ziv.

As it does every year, the Israel Cancer Association released specific warnings against using tanning beds, which use ultraviolet radiation.

“If you’re younger than 35, using a tanning bed increases chances of melanoma by 75 percent,” warned Dr. Felix Pavlotzky, a senior dermatologist at the phototherapy institute at Sheba Medical Center.

It also recommends using sunscreen against UVB and UVA ultraviolet radiation, avoiding sun exposure between 10 A.M and 4 P.M., wearing a hat, and staying in the shade.

Dr. Niva Shapira, a nutrition counselor at the Cancer Association also noted that recent studies have shown a Mediterranean diet rich in fish and olive oil reduces the risk of melanoma.

Food proven to help protect against radiation includes broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, kiwi, grapes, strawberries, oranges, fish, olive oil, avocado, almonds, tea, cacao and spices including rosemary and sage.

In contrast, processed red meat; Omega 6-rich oils like sunflower, corn and soy oil; fried food; celery; parsley and figs all increase skin oxidation and skin cancer risk.

In recent months, some success has been recorded in developing a biological vaccine against melanoma. One such vaccine is being tested at Sheba, while another, originally developed against herpes and known as OnoVex, brought about a complete recovery in 8 percent of the patients treated with it. The research was published in December in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Skin cancer awareness week will begin on Sunday, May 10, when the four health maintenance organizations open 300 stations for free tests. More details are available from the Israel Cancer Association at 1-800-599-995.