Experts warn of skin cancer 'epidemic' as Norfolk hospital's case load trebles in six years
PUBLISHED: 12:56 29 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:56 29 March 2014
copyright: Archant 2014
Specialists have warned that skin cancer cases in East Anglia are set to rise over the next three decades after a department at a Norfolk hospital saw its case load treble in the space of six years.
Sun safe advice
• The best advice is to avoid ultraviolet light during the hottest part of the day between 11am and 3pm.
• If the UV index is greater than 3, you can get burnt, so wear sunscreen. The UV rating can be found on the Met Office website.
• Even if it is cloudy, UV can get through the cloud and burn you.
• People with red or blonde hair and pale skin are most likely to burn and patients most at risk are urged to be careful from the beginning of April to the end of September.
• You should to go to the doctor straight away if you have a new mole or skin change, or if you have a mole that is: getting bigger, changing shape, changing colour, has a loss of symmetry, is itchy or painful, bleeding or becoming crusty, or looking inflamed.
• For more information, visit www.skincancersurgery.co.uk
Experts from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said that the skin cancer “epidemic” is set to get worse as the country’s post-war baby boomers are diagnosed with more tumours.
The Mohs micrographic surgery team, which removes cancers from patients’ faces and necks, was set up at the Colney hospital in 2008 and has gone from doing around 100 procedures in the first year to around 350 surgeries a year.
Officials from the skin cancer department at the N&N have warned that the number of patients with non-melanoma cancers requiring Mohs surgery will increase to 600 a year in the future.
Doctors have warned East Anglians to be aware of the signs of skin cancer and to protect themselves from the sun’s damaging rays with the region forecasted to have another sunny weekend.
Melanoma rates in the East of England have increased from around 11 per 100,000 people in 2002 to 16 per 100,000 in 2011 and doctors are bracing themselves for a rise in skin cancer cases.
Marc Moncrieff, consultant plastic surgeon at the N&N, said awareness of the dangers of the sun was improving. However, people were more likely to get non-melanoma cancers in later life.
“Skin cancer in this country is an epidemic and the most serious form is melanoma, which is doubling every ten to 15 years.”
“The increase in skin cancer is set to peak in 2040. The baby boomers were the first to have decent incomes to go on package holidays and there was no such thing as sunscreen then.”
“This hospital is now getting a reputation as a centre of excellence for skin cancer and we are getting referrals from King’s Lynn, Great Yarmouth and Ipswich,” he said.
The hospital deals with 3,000 cases of non-melanoma every year, but only around 400 need Mohs surgery.
Mohs surgery, which has the highest reported cure rate of all treatments of skin cancer, was pioneered by Frederic Mohs, in America, in the 1930s, and was first used in the UK in the 1990s.
The treatment, during an out-patients appointment, allows the immediate and complete microscopic examination of the removed cancer tissue so that all the extensions of the cancer can be removed. Most cases can be completed in three or fewer stages, requiring less than four hours.
Jennifer Garioch, consultant dermatologist at the N&N, said the Mohs team served a population of 1.5m people and there were plans in the pipeline to expand to cope with demand. The next nearest hospital for Mohs surgery is in Cambridge and London.
Dr Garioch said they hoped to get a pathology lab installed at the dermatology department so that tumours could be analysed quicker, which would reduce the waiting times for patients between surgeries.
“I always say that your skin never forgets and remembers sun exposure from your teenage years and 20s. Our service is unique in that we have dermatology working closely with plastic surgeons and we are the only Mohs like that and Marc is only the second plastic surgeon in the country to do Mohs. We have tremendous back-up from the pathology department and we can not do it without them,” she said.