New survey findings from the Israel Cancer Association show a significant
decline in death rates among Jews from melanoma skin cancer.
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rates among Arabs have declined less, but melanoma cases among them are much
fewer than among Jews because Arabs tend to wear more modest
Miri Ziv, the association’s director-general, spoke about the
survey results during her annual pre-summer presentation that gears up for Skin
Cancer Awareness Week from May 15 to 20.
In its survey of 4,100 adults,
the ICA found that nearly 55 percent of Israeli adults said they avoid
suntanning, thereby protecting themselves from dangerous ultraviolet
Ziv said it has become common practice, especially among women and
elderly men, to stay in the shade in the summer. However, only 39% of people
ages 21 to 38 reported making a habit of staying in the shade.
tend to be most cautious stay out of the sun between the peak hours of 10 a.m.
and 4 p.m., and wear long-sleeved, light clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when
Still, only 26% of Jewish respondents and 23% of Arab
respondents said they use protective sunscreen regularly, although women apply
it much more often than men.
More than a quarter of Jews said they had
undergone a skin exam in the past two years, with Arabs being much less likely
to do so.
GenoMEL, an international research consortium, found in a
comparative survey of 12 countries that 38% of Israelis admitted they had
suffered sunburn almost every year before the age of 16, a figure considerably
higher than in most other countries. Sun damage that can lead to skin cancer is
cumulative, thus the earlier the exposure, the more dangerous.
melanoma is diagnosed earlier now, thus increasing chances of recovery and
five-year survival rates, Israel still has a way to go, Ziv said.
2008, the last time data were collected, 1,330 malignant melanoma patients were
diagnosed. Those at highest risk are native-born Israelis and Ashkenazim of
European and American origin.
Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews are at lower risk
due to their darker skin pigments.
Tel Aviv University professor Esther
Azizi, a leading GenoMEL researcher, said even though the sun’s rays are a major
source of vitamin D, they often do not raise the vitamin’s level enough. Taking
supplements via pills or drops is more effective and safer for the skin.
Additionally, wearing proper attire is a necessity when it comes to skin
Eating brocolli, cauliflower and other cruciferous
vegetables, which contain anti-cancer agents, can help protect against skin
cancer, experts reported.
Prof. Julia Newton Bishop, international
chairman of the GenoMEL consortium in Israel, said that in 2008, 200,000 cases
of melanoma had been diagnosed around the world, with some 45,000 dying of
During Skin Cancer Awareness Week, the ICA has the cooperation of the
four health funds, the Health Ministry and various medical societies to
publicize how to avoid skin cancer.
More details are available from the
ICA’s Telemeida number at 1-800-559-995.
During the week dermatologists
will conduct free skin tests of moles and beauty marks to check for skin
Experimental drugs such as ipilimumab have shown promise in
treating or controlling metastatic melanoma that spreads from the skin to other
organs. Other researchers are working on the customization of treatment for each
melanoma patient, according to genetic makeup.
Steady use of aspirin and
other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is believed to reduce the risk of
melanoma, but they pose other risks, such as stomach ulcers and bleeding. Thus,
they should not be taken without consulting a doctor.
The ICA is also
encouraging Israelis to sign a petition to the United Nations’s health-related
organizations to make the globe a “world without cancer.” The ICA hopes at least
10,000 will sign (in Hebrew) via its website at www.cancer.org.il.
international organizations are working to reduce the incidence of cancer,
including preventible types such as cervical cancer and a type of liver cancer
that can be reduced by vaccination.
They also aim to reduce stigmas and
ignorance about cancer, and encourage early detection, multidisciplinary care
and rehabilitation for patients.