Free skin check could save your life from melanoma

Some 300 health fund clinics will offer free checks for moles by dermatologists as part of Skin Cancer Awareness Week.

By
May 17, 2013 04:11
3 minute read.
SolaScan, a device to detect skin cancer [file].

Device that detects skin cancer 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mark Baker)

Some 300 health fund clinics around the country will next week be open to the public for free checks of moles by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, as part of a campaign to mark Skin Cancer Awareness Week.

Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker, who works at the National Cancer Registry of the Health Ministry’s National Center for Disease Control says that while there is an increase in the prevalence of melanoma in much of the world, it has been quite steady among Jews except for a small increase in the last year.

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Among Arabs, the rates of morbidity and mortality from skin cancer in the past 10 years have been very low. Among Jews, the rates are stable in men and have declined in the past decade among Jewish women by 32 percent.

In 2010, a total of 1,370 new cases of malignant melanoma – the most dangerous type of skin cancer – were diagnosed. Early diagnosis – made possible, in part, by the Israel Cancer Association’s awareness campaigns like that to be held next week – have reduced the toll from skin tumors. Early diagnosis raises the chances for a complete recovery dramatically, said Keinan-Boker.

In that year, 207 Israelis died of malignant melanoma.

Melanoma is mostly likely to be found in Israeli-born men aged 55 and over. The survival rate in men is 85.8%, while in women it is 89.7%.

According to data from the Israel Agency for Cancer Research, this country is 18th in the world in the prevalence of malignant melanoma, following countries like Australia, the US and countries in Scandinavia and Western Europe, which have higher rates.

The Health Ministry says that a committee of experts is preparing new standards for sunscreen creams and lotions to make Israel’s more in keeping with new international standards. These will include different warnings and instructions for usage so the public is not mislead, the ministry said.

New research by Prof. Jeremy Kark and Dr. Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University Hadassah-Braun School of Public Health, the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Cancer Registry has found that the risk of melanoma is twice as high among those who immigrated from Europe to Israel before the age of 10 than those who came on aliya after that age. In addition, the risk of melanoma among immigrants from African and Asian countries is a quarter of that faced by immigrants from Europe. The researchers concluded that it was very important to protect children, especially light-skinned ones, from ongoing exposure to the sun.

Another study found that people who were diagnosed with skin cancers other than melanoma are at higher risk to develop another kind of cancer. Ultra-violet radiation has a major role not only in harming the DNA in the skin cells but also in weakening the person’s immune system. As a result, the body cannot easily remove defective skin cells that multiply rapidly.

Previous studies showed that taking omega-3 pills (or eating it in oily fish) help protect against harm to the immune system and the development of skin cancer in mice.

In research at the famed Karolinska Institute in Sweden, it was discovered for the first time that high levels of the biological marker called thymine dimer found in urine tests of workers exposed to the sun may indicate DNA damage caused by solar radiation.

During awareness week, the four health funds will reduce the prices of sunscreen that they sell in their pharmacists, and the Israel Cancer Association will run public service ads in the media, including the Internet.

Make an appointment by calling your health fund’s central number. For a list of health fund stations, go into www.cancer.org.il or call 1- 800-599995.


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