Non-melanoma skin cancer benefits from focus

Non-melanoma skin cancer benefits from focus
Non-melanoma skin cancer benefits from focus

Australians with keratinocyte (previously termed non-melanoma) skin cancer are benefiting from the release of clinical guidelines containing the latest on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

One of the authors, University of Melbourne Associate Professor Peter Foley, who is also Director of Research at the city’s Skin Health Institute, says the ‘Clinical practice guidelines for keratinocyte cancer (basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma)’ can be found at Cancer Council Australia’s website.

“One of the big changes is that non-melanoma skin cancers, which relate to basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, were rebadged as keratinocyte cancer,” Professor Foley told Retail Pharmacy.

He says the skin cancer dermatology community and cancer councils have often been praised for emphasising melanoma, which is the most serious form of skin cancer.

However, the condition accounts for only about 5% of skin cancers. The other 95%, which are more common than every other cancer put together, are often “swept under the carpet”.

“This is the case because they’re more associated with morbidity than mortality,” he said.

Professor Foley points out that keratinocyte skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma – the most commonly occurring cancers in Australia – cause an estimated 560 deaths a year, while treatments for these non-melanoma skin cancers involve 939,000 patients a year.

For 2019, the number of new melanoma diagnosed was estimated at 15,230, with deaths resulting from the condition at 1,725.

“A whopping two in three Australians will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer (including both melanoma and keratinocyte skin cancer) by the age of 70,” Professor Foley said.

“So, my hope is that the new guidelines will continue to focus more attention on non-melanoma skin cancers, which have been neglected a bit historically even though they’re potentially death causing and a significant burden on the health system.”

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