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Skin Cancer focus of regional conference

14 November 2011

Skin Cancer Prevalence, Diagnosis and Treatment focus of regional conference

Skin Cancer is the topic at the annual Department of General Surgery Education Day on Friday 11th November 2011. This conference coincides with ‘SunSmart week’ which begins national-wide from November 13th to the 19th.

Local Surgeons, GPs, Registrars (surgeons in training) and nurse practitioners, met at Barge Park in Whangarei to hear of series of talks about skin cancer. A highlight was keynote speaker, Mr John Kenealy, Head of Plastic Surgery at Middlemore Hospital. The aim of the day was to update clinicians about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin cancer in our community.

Many hundreds of patients with skin cancer are referred to Northland DHB for surgery each year. In February, Northland DHB committed to a Skin Cancer Project, whereby a small number of referred patients will have their skin surgery done by one of five Northland GPs.

These GPs (called GPSIs: GPs with Special Interest) have expertise in skin cancer surgery. This allows some Northland patients from outside Whangarei to have their surgery closer to home – for example in Kerikeri. The lead Clinician for this project, General Surgeon Dr Vanessa Blair, presented the progress to date with this initiative, which is being prospectively audited to monitor outcomes and thus direct further training initiatives.

Dr Blair commented that New Zealand and Australia have the highest rates of Melanoma in the world, and Northland has one of the highest rates in NZ – no doubt due to all the sunshine in the glorious north! While Melanoma is much rarer in Maori – recent evidence show rates appear to be increasing and Maori patients with melanoma more often present with more advanced melanomas – perhaps because awareness is not high among the Maori communities.

The Northern Cancer Society and Melanoma Foundation provide very useful resources and support for community education during SunSmart week and year round. These community events aim to highlight the need to take special care with sun protections over the coming summer months, and throughout the year.


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