As hot weather and the sunbathing season arrive, the Israel Cancer Association is holding its annual Melanoma Awareness Week from June 12-18 to encourage the public to avoid the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.Hundreds of health fund clinics around the country will offer free skin examinations next week to diagnose the malignancy early.The ICA called on the public to make an appointment for the examination. Free screening tests have already begun.At Maccabi Health Services clinics last year, 15,000 adults went for examination. A total of 138 malignancies were found, and patients were sent for treatment.Every year, an average of 1,580 Israelis is diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Thanks to increased awareness of the danger, the trend among women for the invasive skin cancer is in decline. Men lead in the prevalence of melanoma and are diagnosed when they are older.A third of those diagnosed have early-stage melanoma that raises the cure rate to 90%. Native-born Israelis who are more aware of the danger than immigrants are most likely to be diagnosed at an early stage.According to the ICA, since 1980 there has been a 20-fold increase in women being diagnosed with melanoma at an early stage, compared to 14-fold in men. ICA director-general Miri Ziv said that the voluntary organization’s ongoing information campaigns on preventing melanoma and getting an early diagnosis of the cancer is responsible for the improvement. More advanced treatments as well have lowered the mortality rate of the malignancy, she said.The World Health Organization has found that over 500,000 cases of skin cancer are caused by tanning beds, which are legal in Israel, but prohibit customers who are minors.Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, deputy head of the Health Ministry’s Center for Disease Control, said of the 1,580 patients diagnosed in 2014 with melanoma, 856 were men and 724 women. Ninety-five percent of the patients were Jews (apparently due to better coverage by clothing among Arabs). In 1,095 of the patients, the tumor was invasive and metastatic, going beyond the skin because of a late diagnosis.The average age at diagnosis was 64 years among men and 61 years among women. Most patients who are diagnosed with melanoma are over the age of 55.Immigrants from Europe and the Americas are at the highest risk and those of Asian and African origin at the lowest (partly due to the differences in skin color; darker skin has more melanin and thus is better protected from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays).Survival rates from melanoma have risen in the last five years to 88.1% among men and 86.4% among women. Nearly 200 Israelis die each year from melanoma complications, most of them over the age of 75. In 2014, there were 6,600 survivors of invasive melanoma.While Israel used to have among the highest melanoma prevalence rates in the world – in third place after Australia and New Zealand (where the protective ozone layer in the skies is depleted), in international comparisons it is now 13th for men and 20th for women.Research from New Jersey has found that sitting under a beach umbrella is less safe against sunburn than regularly applying effective sunscreens. At the beach, even under an umbrella, the sun’s rays can be reflected from the water and elsewhere and reach the skin indirectly. However, the researchers writing in JAMA Dermatology noted that sunscreen alone is not enough to protect people from sunburn and melanoma. They should wear wide-brimmed hats and light clothing over bare skin and stay out of the sun during the peak hours after 10 a.m. and before 4 p.m.While 56% of American high school pupils suffered sunburn during the past year, only 17% of their Israeli counterparts said the same. The ICA reminds parents that they should not expose infants under the age of six months to any sun, and that children who are exposed to UV accumulate the risks as they get older.The Super-Pharm chain has agreed to donate NIS 1 to the ICA for each home-brand (Life) sunscreen it sells in its stores. The chain will also hand out information booklets about skin cancer and sun exposure.