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Campaign targets Norfolk's high skin cancer rates

PUBLISHED: 09:19 19 October 2010

A NEW health campaign has been launched, after figures revealed Norfolk has the highest rate of melanoma - the most dangerous form of skin cancer - in the region.

Anglia Cancer Network is now urging anybody who has noticed a new or existing mole which is changing size, shape or colour to get themselves checked out for this potentially lethal but curable condition.

The network co-ordinates the planning, commissioning and delivery of high quality cancer care to 2.63m people in Cambridgeshire, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, Norfolk, Peterborough, Suffolk and Bedfordshire – the area it refers to as Anglia.

It says statistics also show this area has a higher rate of skin cancer than England as a whole – with 43.2 people in every 100,000 affected in Anglia, compared to 38.12 in England.

According to the figures from the Eastern Cancer Registry and Information Centre, around 542 cases a year are diagnosed in Anglia, and there are an average of 43 deaths every year.

Around 165 cases a year are seen at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital alone.

Dr Rory Harvey, medical director of the network, said: “These statistics show that melanoma skin cancer is a very real danger in Anglia. Melanoma skin cancer kills, and we want to get the message across that this is a disease which can be prevented and if caught early can be cured. If you have any doubts at all, see your doctor – a few minutes spent getting yourself checked out now could prevent a life-threatening illness.

“Skin cancer can affect anyone, but more deaths occur in men than women, as well as those who spend a lot of time in the sun either for work or pleasure. Men over 50 sometimes don’t realise the danger of exposure to the sun on holiday or in the garden and so don’t protect themselves with appropriate clothing and 
suncream. If that applies to you check for some of the tell-tale signs this campaign will highlight and go to your GP with any concerns as soon as you can.”

Skin cancers are commonly associated with excessive amounts of sun exposure and with burning, both on holiday and at home. Outdoor workers are also particularly at risk from two other types of skin cancer, squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma – outdoor workers are exposed to 400 times the amount of ultraviolet radiation compared with office workers.

Nationwide, malignant melanoma rates have quadrupled over the last 30 years – due largely, experts believe, to cultural and lifestyle changes.

Experts believe the region’s high proportion of retired people, as well as outdoor workers, have contributed to the high rates.

Marc Moncrieff, consultant plastic surgeon at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust, said: “To some extent the people who are being diagnosed now are the people who went away on holiday a lot in the ’70s and ’80s, with little awareness of the harm exposure could cause. There is also risk associated with an active lifestyle, even in retirement, where people are out in the sun a lot, gardening, walking, playing or watching sports. Outdoor workers are also at risk.

“Men, especially those over 50, are far less likely to get these things checked. They don’t want to make a fuss or waste anybody’s time, and tell themselves it’s nothing. In fact, it’s often only their wives insisting they come that makes them take action at all.”

Dr Jennifer Garioch, consultant dermatologist at the N&N, said: “The message we are keen to get across is about prevention and early detection. We’re not asking people to be paranoid, but be sensible – cover up, wear hats, avoid the sun at its strongest and use protection. And if you do think there is something wrong, get it looked at straight away. Caught early, skin cancer is highly curable. Anglia has a high 
proportion of retired people, as well as outdoor workers, which goes 
some way to explaining why there is more skin cancer here than elsewhere.”

Anglia Cancer Network is sending its special “hit squads” into targeted areas within Norfolk and the region. Eye-catching ad vans will bear the clear message that men need to get skin changes checked out, and the teams will be on hand to chat to passers-by, using posters, postcards and stickers to heighten awareness of skin cancer.

The skin cancer hit squads will be moving around various locations in Hunstanton on Friday, starting at 10am and finishing at 6pm, at venues including Wards Nurseries, Hunstanton Golf Club, local shops, pubs and barbers.

For more information, go to www.skincancerkills.org or to www.angliacancernetwork.nhs.uk

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