Incidence of Skin Cancer, Early Detection Rates Increased in 2007

Ran Reznick
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Ran Reznick

The incidence of skin cancer in Israel rose in 2007, but mainly among men, according to Health Ministry statistics released yesterday.

The data, which showed that 1,200 people contracted the disease in 2007, were published at a press conference held by the Israel Cancer Association in honor of the 12th World Congress on Cancers of the Skin, which opened in Tel Aviv yesterday.

Some 400 Israelis die of skin cancer every year.

Dr. Micha Barhana, director of the Health Ministry's national cancer registry, told the press conference that one in every 34 Israeli men is likely to develop melanoma by the age of 90, as opposed to only one in every 50 Israeli women.

On average, there were 15 new cases of skin cancer for every 100,000 residents among Israel's Jewish population in 2007. However, the rate among men was 19 cases per 100,000 people, while for women it was 13 per 100,000. Higher rates of skin cancer were also found in native Israelis than in immigrants.

In contrast, skin cancer is very rare among Israeli Arabs: Between 2000 and 2007, only six to eight Arabs a year contracted this disease, compared to the almost 1,200 Jews in 2007 alone.

The ministry noted that skin cancer is increasingly being detected in the early stages, which improves the chances for recovery. Some 400 of the people diagnosed with skin cancer in 2007 were caught in the early stages, which is 10 times the number diagnosed with early-stage melanoma in 1990.

Early-stage detection generally depends on the patient noticing a suspicious lesion and consulting a doctor, so public awareness of the disease is critical, ministry officials noted.

The press conference also unveiled the results of a worldwide survey on skin cancer. The results for Israel, based on a survey of 1,000 adults conducted by the Israel Cancer Association, found that 27 percent of Israelis were sunburnt in the last year, including almost 42 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds. However, 92 percent of Israelis said they were aware that exposure to the sun raises the risk of cancer.

The highest incidences of sunburn were found in Australia, New Zealand and Latin America.

Only 13 percent of Israeli respondents said they had been tested for skin cancer in the past year. However, the rate was higher among women (15 percent) than among men (11 percent).

Miri Ziv, director general of the Israel Cancer Association, noted that her organization's campaign to raise awareness of skin cancer, which began 18 years ago, has borne fruit - specifically, a 90-percent increase in the number of early detections of melanoma. She also said that to minimize the risk of melanoma, people should stay out of the sun from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. when possible and wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen if they must be out in the sun.

Dr. Joseph Alcalay, president of both the Israel Society of Dermatology and the 12th World Congress on Cancers of the Skin, urged Israelis to examine their sunscreen and cosmetics and choose brands that protect against both kinds of ultraviolet rays - A and B. He also noted that people who have received organ transplants should take special precautions, as they are at a higher risk for skin cancer.