Health Experts Plead Action to Prevent Skin Cancer Epidemic in New Zealand

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By Smitha Nambiar | July 29, 2014 12:24 PM EST

Health officials in New Zealand have pleaded for action from the Ministry of Health to ensure that there is no epidemic of skin cancer. According to experts, thousands could be affected with non-melanoma skin cancers.

Reuters
Qin Zhengu shows tumours on his fingers caused due to skin cancer June 23, 2014

Fear of a skin cancer epidemic has led health officials to approach the health Ministry in New Zealand to take appropriate measures. Though non-melanoma skin cancer is estimated to cost the government $123 million a year, and an average of 67,000 people in New Zealand being diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers every year, the data collection of the illness stopped way back in 1958.

Dr Jan Pearson, the Cancer Society's deputy chief executive and health promotion manager, has written to the ministry asking them to begin count on non-melanoma skin cancer cases. According to Pearson, since there is no data, the financial and human cost is not known.

According to the Ministry's last statistics on non-melanoma skin cancers, 2,341 people were diagnosed with the disease in 2010, killing 324 people. However, Pearson said that there were 454 registered cases of people suffering from skin cancer in 2010, and 130 people died of the illness.

Dr Swee Tan, executive director of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute and Hutt Hospital consultant plastic surgeon, is also of the opinion that the ministry must start monitoring non-melanoma skin cancer cases. "We as a country need to look at our strategy for non-melanoma skin cancer and put a plan in place so we can look to the future and not get surprised," said Tan. "However, the ministry is aware of a study taking place in the Auckland region, which is looking at the diagnosis and treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers. The outcome of that study could help inform any future decision about the feasibility of collecting data on the incidence of this group of cancers," added Swee Tan.

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(Photo: Reuters / Jason Lee)
Qin Zhengu shows tumours on his fingers caused due to skin cancer June 23, 2014
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