Crisis as admissions for skin cancer care soar

Posted: 02/09/2014


Official figures collated by Public Health England on hospital admissions for skin cancer are to be highlighted at the World Congress on Cancers of the Skin later this week. The data reported today (2 September 2014) shows an alarming increase. 

Between 2007 and 2011 the number of patients admitted to hospital rose dramatically. Those with the most serious cases of skin cancer – malignant melanoma – increased by nearly a third and other skin cancers rose by over 40%. 

The latest available data is for 2011, when over 120,000 patients were admitted to hospital for skin cancer treatment. The cost to the NHS was almost £100 million. This excludes patients treated in GP surgeries or as out-patients.

Experts say the majority of skin cancer cases could be avoided if people took greater responsibility for protecting their skin from UV rays, for example, by applying effective sunscreen.  Sunburn doubles the risk of skin cancer.

Numerous campaigns have significantly increased public awareness of the damage the sun can cause to skin. Even so, this latest data highlights that people are not doing enough.  More affordable overseas holidays and the fashionable tanned look have had a major impact. The increase in cases of skin cancer is particularly marked among men aged over 60 years. The cancers most commonly occur on the head and neck, where the early signs are less likely to be spotted. 

Andrew Clayton of Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team comments: "Despite increased publicity of the risks of skin cancer, cases are still on the rise. There seems either still to be a lack of public awareness, or people are reluctant to take precautions to guard against skin cancer. 

"Avoiding skin cancer altogether by using appropriate protection is clearly the best approach, but these statistics highlight an increasing risk so people also need to be more aware of the signs and symptoms and to seek medical treatment early. Melanomas often appear larger and more irregular in shape than moles. They can be different shades and colours and are sometimes itchy or bleed. We know from numerous cases on which we have advised that early diagnosis and treatment are key to a positive outcome in cancer cases, but with NHS resources as stretched as they are, we would encourage everyone to do more to avoid the risk of skin cancer in the first place." 

 


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