(photo credit: REUTERS)
Globally the prevalence of melanoma – the most dangerous kind of skin cancer –
continues to rise. But thanks to two decades of information campaigns by the
Israel Cancer Association (ICA) – which held its annual press conference on skin
cancer and sun protection on Tuesday – and the health funds, the prevalence and
mortality rates in the country are declining.
Israeli women are
considerably more aware of the dangers of sun exposure and of melanoma than
their male counterparts, the ICA reported.
Since 1992, the rate of
invasive melanoma that goes beyond the skin to other organs has gone down 30
percent in Jewish women, while it remains stable among Jewish men.
addition, melanoma remains relatively rare in the Arab population – among both
men and women – due to more modest clothing, a tendency to stay out of the sun
at peak hours, less sunbathing and certain genetic advantages.
director-general Miri Ziv said at the press conference that melanoma is
diagnosed earlier in both Israeli men and women, thus reducing the death rate
from this type of cancer, which hits the young and old alike.
to Dr. Lital Keinan- Boker, head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease
Control, 1,293 people were diagnosed with melanoma in 2009 – 862 of them with
the type that has penetrated beyond the skin, and the rest with tumors on the
Skin cancer rates in Australia, where the protective ozone
layer has holes, as well as in the US, Canada, Scandinavia and other European
countries, remain high and rising.
Native Israelis are generally at
higher risk – both women (11.9 per 100,000 people) and men (16.2). Israelis of
European and American origin are also more likely to develop melanoma than women
born in Asia (2.1 per 100,000) and Africa (2.7), largely because the latter
groups’ darker skin is protective.
The lifetime risk for melanoma is one
per 36 Jewish men and one per 45 Jewish women. Among Israeli men, survival over
five years after diagnosis with penetrating melanoma has risen from 83% in the
1990s to 86.5% in 2003- 2008. Among women, the survival rate increased from 86%
to 89% for the same period.
Nevertheless, treatment can be disfiguring,
painful and timeconsuming, and can include side effects.
Director- General Prof. Ronni Gamzu has been pressing the public health funds to
sell sun-protection creams more cheaply so as to encourage members to use them
more frequently. Prices have gone down in the health funds’ pharmacies, and even
in private pharmacies, but costs are still prohibitive for lower socioeconomic
The ICA recommends staying out of the sun during the peak hours
between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but those who do take the risk should ideally use
SPF 30 sunscreen for more protection if they don’t apply it thickly, and SPF 15
if they apply it thickly and frequently, especially when bathing or
Nonetheless, no sunscreen offers full protection. The Health
Ministry recently required manufacturers and importers to give stronger warnings
on their products.
According to a public opinion survey, adults are more
aware than before that sun exposure ages and wrinkles the skin, in addition to
triggering skin cancer. More people – teenagers and adults – think that a suntan
is not necessarily attractive.
Nevertheless, 66% of teenagers still go to
the beach during the high-risk hours, and 49% suffered from sunburn in the past
US research has shown that two new experimental biological
medications for melanoma have improved results in fighting the tumors and cause
fewer serious side effects.