MELANOMA DEADLIER THAN ROAD FATALITIES

Posted 3 March 2015.

More people die from melanoma each year than are killed annually in road crashes.

This statistic is part of a comprehensive submission made to parliament’s Health Select Committee which is considering outlawing sunbeds for people under the age of 18.

The submission is made by Accuro Health Insurance, established in the 1970s as a private insurer for the public health sector. Today it trades as a private health insurer with a widespread, general membership.  

Accuro, in supporting the submission made by the New Zealand Dermatological Society, pointed to a New Zealand Cancer Society figure of 324 deaths from melanoma in 2010. According to the NZ Road Transport Agency there were 253 road deaths for the 12 months to February 2014 and 303 for the 12 months to February 2015.

In highlighting the figure, CEO Geoff Annals emphasised the serious nature of the disease and his submission drew the committee’s attention to the financial, social and personal costs of skin cancer.

He quoted Cancer Society figures which report that New Zealand, along with Australia, has amongst the highest melanoma rates in the world. In 2010 melanoma was the fourth most common cancer with 2,341 registered cases and the sixth most common cause of death from cancer.

The Cancer Society further reports that skin cancer currently costs this country about $123 million annually.

Geoff Annals says research by the Centre for Disease Control showed the introduction of seat belts reduced serious crash related injuries and deaths by about half and banning artificial UV tanning services is warranted on the same public health grounds as the compulsory seat belt legislation.

While Accuro’s submission relates to a ban for people under 18 years, it supports the introduction of a total ban on commercial artificial UV tanning.

“As a health insurer grounded in the public health sector, we are strongly committed to supporting the effectiveness of publicly funded health services and better health outcomes for all New Zealanders,” Geoff Annals says. 

A leading New Zealand dermatologist, Dr Louise Reiche, who’s also made submissions to the Health Select Committee, says she’s treating many young people, especially women in their 20s and 30s, with melanomas resulting from commercial sunbed exposure.

She says clients typically lie naked on their sunbeds and expose skin to radiation emitted from UV lamps which can be up to 13 times greater than the peak summer sun. She’s now treating people with cancer of the genital skin which is more vulnerable to skin cancer development.

“The medical profession is run off their feet with people presenting themselves with skin cancers causing the public health system to be overwhelmed,” Dr Reiche says.

“The waiting list is three to four months for urgent cases and, during the delay, the cancers are growing. This results in poorer health outcomes and more complex and expensive procedures.”

The Health Select Committee is, at present, considering the submissions and will report to the House by May 6, 2015. Parliament will then debate the committee’s report and vote on changes to the Bill.

To read the full submission click here.