9 Aug 2008

Skin cancer brochures don't work - researchers

5:44 am on 9 August 2008

Pamphlets and brochures warning about skin cancer do not work, researchers at the University of Otago have found.

A paper on their work appears in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal.

So-called "early detection education strategies" were introduced in New Zealand almost 15 years ago.

Incidents of the most deadly of melanomas, thick melanomas, did not decrease between 1994 and 2004.

In 1994, 1458 people were registered with melanoma. The reported death rates were:

253 (98 women and 155 men) in 2000;

244 (88 women and 156 men) in 2001;

235 (86 women and 149 men) in 2002;

285 (111 women and 174 men) in 2003;

249 (97 women and 152 men) in 2004.

The study showed that the proportion of people with thick melanoma is greater in people in their 60s.

Skin cancer doctors say the news is disappointing, but not surprising.

Melanoma cancer surgeon Isaac Cranshaw has called for a regular screening programme to fight the disease.

Mr Cranshaw, from the Skin Institute in Auckland, says regular melanoma screenings are not carried out in New Zealand, but should be.

He says the chance of survive melanoma increases if it is detected when it is thin. Regular skin checks such as molemaps are useful in cutting thick melanoma rates.

Meanwhile, a trans-Tasman scientific research team has been formed to develop treatments for melanoma.

Scientists at the Malaghan Insitute and the Ludwig Institute are embarking on a $1 million research programme backed by the American Milken Institute.

The team also includes scientists from New York and South Africa.

Professor Mike Berridge from the Malaghan Institute believes there is potential to find a cure to the disease.

New trans-Tasman clinical guidelines for the treatment and management of melanoma are to be introduced later in the year.