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Skin cancer rates on the rise in Canada

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – It seems we aren’t getting the message about protecting ourselves from the harmful rays of the sun.

Skin cancer cases are on the rise in Canada, particularly the most deadly form: melanoma.

The Canadian Cancer Society predicts more than 191,000 people in this country will be diagnosed with the disease this year and almost half of those will be cases of skin cancer.

Prithwish De with the Cancer Society says too many people underestimate the risk.

“The fact that skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada is probably something that is not known to most people. There’s over 80,000 skin cancer cases expected in Canada this year and that’s almost as many cases as the top four [other] cancers combined,” says De.

Those other cancers are lung, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer.

The good news is skin cancer, including melanoma, is one of the most preventable forms of the disease. The main risk factor is UV radiation from overexposure to the sun and other sources, such as indoor tanning beds.

“In October 2012, the BC government banned the use of indoor tanning equipment for youth under the age of 18. While it’s still early, we hope to see a reduction in the number of cases of melanoma in the future because of this,” says Kathryn Seely with the BC and Yukon chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society.

“In addition to our advocacy efforts, we’re doing everything we can to educate British Columbians about how they can reduce their risk of developing melanoma in the first place.”

Sarah Merrill knows the risk well. The 23-year old SFU grad is melanoma skin cancer survivor, having had a baseball-sized section of tissue removed from her knee in December, 2010. By January, she was cancer-free.

Sarah’s story isn’t unusual; she used tanning beds for a few special occasions, wore sunscreen most times when outdoors, and had a mole.

“There is a lot of pressure to be tanned. Because I’m a melanoma skin cancer survivor, I feel very strongly about prevention and the power to encourage behavioural change among young people,” she says.

Overall, BC continues to have the lowest estimated new cancer cases in all of Canada. In BC in 2014, an estimated 12,900 men and 11,400 women will receive a cancer diagnosis. More than half will be prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers.

BC also has the lowest estimated cancer death rate in Canada. In 2014 in BC, there will be an estimated 9,900 deaths from cancer.

Across the country, the Cancer Society estimates nearly 77,000 Canadians will die from some form of cancer this year.