Last Updated: 2003-03-27 13:22:10 -0400 (Reuters Health)
LONDON (Reuters Health) - Australia has a higher rate of melanoma, but more people in Britain die of the aggressive skin cancer because the condition is not diagnosed as quickly, cancer experts said on Thursday.
In the past 5 years, 8100 people in Britain have died from malignant melanoma compared with 4900 in Australia, according to Cancer Research UK.
Experts blame the high number of deaths in Britain on a lack of public awareness about the disease and a failure of people to recognise early symptoms.
"Malignant melanoma is a preventable cancer. We need the public to be aware of what they can do to help prevent the disease," Dr. Charlotte Proby, a dermatologist with Cancer Research UK, said in a statement.
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in Britain. Each year about 6000 people in Britain are diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
According to the most recent figures, there were 7850 cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed and 1000 deaths annually in Australia, compared with 5990 cases in Britain and 1600 deaths.
Professor Robert Burton, an adviser on cancer to the Australian Government, said attitudes on sun protection in Australia had shifted in the past 20 years, since the SunSmart awareness campaign was launched.
"In Australia today more than 90% of melanomas diagnosed are curable because they are picked up early. Skin cancer incidence is falling in Australians born after 1950 although it is still rising in the elderly," he said.
Cancer Research UK has joined forces with the government to launch a campaign, similar to one in Australia, to inform people about skin cancer and how to spot the early signs.
"People there have been educated primarily to protect themselves in the sun. They are also taught to take notice of any unusual skin growths or changes in moles and to have them checked by a doctor," Dr. Proby said.