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Even though awareness of the dangers of tanning has greatly increased in all age groups, about 1,000 new cases of melanoma have been diagnosed here in the last four years, according to the Israel Cancer Association, which is launching its annual Skin Cancer Awareness Week next Sunday.
At an ICA press conference on Sunday, Israel Cancer Registry expert Prof. Micha Barhana said that over 30 percent of the cases are now diagnosed when the tumor is localized and the chances for full recovery are high. Melanoma is diagnosed somewhat more frequently among men (12.3 new cases per 100,000) than among women (10.6 new cases per 100,000). The most common age for diagnosis is between 50 and 59, but it can occur even in people in their 20s.
A MarketWatch survey conducted for the ICA found that 46.4 percent of women said they don't recall having ever been burned by the sun, compared to 50.8% among the men. Nearly 6% of the sample of both sexes admitted to having been burnt by excessive exposure to the sun during the past year, and an additional 13% during the past five years, while 29% said they had suffered sunburns as children.
ICA director-general Miri Ziv said that 300 stations around the country would offer free skin-cancer checks during the awareness campaign until June 23. The locations throughout the country can be found by calling the ICA's Telemeida number at 1-800-599-995 or going into its Web site at www.cancer.org.il. People can visit any health fund clinic offering the checkups even if they are a member of a different health fund. The MarketWatch survey also found that 89% of Israelis polled knew that sun exposure causes skin cancer, and 54% were aware of the fact that it causes premature ageing and wrinkling of the skin.
The general sun safety rules are to avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., to wear long-sleeved, light clothing and a protective hat, to wear sunglasses, to use sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 15 generously and renew it every two hours, and to remain in the shade when outdoors as much as possible.
Prof. Rafael Shafir, chairman of the ICA's updating committee on skin cancer, said that besides potentially deadly and disfiguring skin cancer, exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays can cause premature wrinkling and thinning of the skin, the appearance of capillaries on the skin, overproduction of vitamin D leading to kidney stones, cataracts in the eyes and unsightly pigmentation on the skin.
A number of new research studies abroad have disclosed interesting information about skin cancer: Australian scientists have found that skin cancer patients who adopted a diet rich in green vegetables had a lower risk of recurrence. Researchers in Florida found that individuals who had a diet rich in vitamin A, lycopene (in tomatoes) and polyphenols (in green tea) are less likely to get skin cancer at all or will develop it at a later age.