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Will Mad Dogs And Englishmen Change Their Ways?

Will Mad Dogs And Englishmen Change Their Ways?

From The Streets Of London with Malcolm Aitken

More Brits die from melanoma than Australians despite a lower incidence in the UK compared with sun-drenched Australia. A key reason is failure to recognize malignant moles and get to a doctor in time, say Government-backed British experts who last week launched a skin cancer awareness campaign, SunSmart.

A joint initiative by the Government and British charity Cancer Research UK, SunSmart will encourage people to visit their GP if they notice any unusual skin growths or changes in moles. About one in 10 melanomas are malignant and can kill, yet they can be treated if caught early.

Prevention is better than cure: SunSmart will also try to curtail the British habit of often pale skinned, sunshine deprived people tearing their clothes off at the first hint of a fine day and letting themselves get baked red without considering the painful and dangerous consequences. Anyone who’s been to a British park during summer will likely have witnessed this extreme approach to sunbathing.

Cancer research UK national cancer director, Professor Mike Richards says: ‘Skin cancer is a serious and increasing public health concern and studies suggest that sunburn can double our risk of developing the disease. But it’s easily preventable. By taking a few simple steps – like wearing a hat and T-shirt and staying out of the sun around midday – we can significantly reduce our risk of skin cancer.’

During the past five years there have been 8,100 British deaths from malignant melanoma compared with 4,900 in Australia. That’s an annual mortality of about 1,000 in Australia compared with 1,600 in Britain. Yet the figures aren’t so disparate when it comes to incidence: in one year recently 7,850 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in Australia and 5,990 in the UK. Melanoma is the third most common cancer among Brits aged 15 to 39.

SunSmart was last run in New Zealand in 1999 and has been going in Australia for about 20 years. It will involve distributing posters, leaflets and information cards to doctors' surgeries and schools, a Cancer Research UK spokesperson told Scoop. The campaign is funded by £120 000 from the Department of Health and £40 000 from Cancer Research UK. Former world champion racing driver, Sir Jackie Stewart, is supporting it after being successfully treated for skin cancer last year.

New Zealand melanoma situation:

In 1998, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available, there were 1506 melanoma cases registered in New Zealand and 248 deaths. Although Maori feature disproportionately high among other cancer mortality statistics, fewer die from melanoma than non-Maori.


- Malcolm Aitken is a freelance journalist based in London. He can be contacted at

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