The true cost of skin cancer to Kiwis is not known, the Public Health Association Conference in New Plymouth was told, and a better system for skin cancer reporting is desperately needed.
The Cancer Society has again called for improved reporting because it says, despite our skin cancer rates being the highest in the world, important information is being left out as only melanoma registrations are sent to the New Zealand Cancer Registry.
"Skin cancer includes melanoma and non-melanoma (NMSC) cancers, but only melanoma registrations are required to be reported," Cancer Society skin cancer control adviser Barb Hegan said.
"The society relies on a 2006 estimate of 67,000 cases of NMSC at a direct cost to the health system of $57 million. Add in lost productivity and it inflates to $123 million. Based on that report, that's more than 97 per cent of skin cancers not being reported."
She said while mortality rates for NMSC are low, they still place a large burden on the individual, their families and the health system.
"Another gap in the reporting system is that it doesn't record a person's occupation. We could use that knowledge to identify and prioritise efforts to limit exposure to UVR for specific occupations," Ms Hegan said.
"The frustrating thing is the majority of instances of skin cancer can be avoided. More than 90 per cent of cases are attributed to excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR), and many cases could be avoided if people routinely covered up.
"Unless we have clear data on prevalence of NMSC we don't know if our messages to protect our skin and eyes are effective."
"If we had better information on the true numbers of those of us affected by skin cancer then we would have a better understanding of the cost."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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