Preventable and deadly skin cancer on the rise in BC

Sarah Merrill, 23-year-old melanoma skin cancer survivor, speaks to her experience and helps the Canadian Cancer Society promote sun safety. (CNW Group/Canadian Cancer Society (BC and Yukon Division))

VANCOUVER, May 28, 2014 /CNW/ - Melanoma skin cancer is one of the fastest rising of all cancers in Canada and BC's rate is rising too. British Columbians need to do more to protect themselves from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to a special report on skin cancer. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 was released today by the Canadian Cancer Society in partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada and Statistics Canada.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada, with an estimated 6,500 new cases of melanoma and another 76,100 cases of non-melanoma skin cancers expected to be diagnosed in 2014. Of the skin cancers, melanoma is the deadliest form, with 1,050 Canadians expected to die from it this year. Two years ago in BC, there were an estimated 910 cases of melanoma. But in 2014, it is estimated that there will be 970 new cases of melanoma - 60 more cases than 2012 - and 140 British Columbians are expected to die from it.

Skin cancer, including melanoma, is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. The main risk factor is UV radiation from overexposure to the sun and other sources, such as indoor tanning beds. UV radiation is responsible for up to 90% of melanoma cases. With about half of all cancers being preventable, the Society actively advocates for better policies to make healthy choices easier - for example, working with the government to implement indoor tanning legislation banning youth from using 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, Director of Public Issues, Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon. "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."

While the rate of new cases (incidence) and death rate for many types of cancer are going down in Canada (all rates are adjusted for age), for melanoma the story is less positive. According to the current report, which examined melanoma rates since 1986, melanoma has been increasing significantly in both men and women. In BC, the melanoma incidence rates have been increasing annually, up 1.3% for men and 2.2% for women.

"There is a lot of pressure to be tanned," says Sarah Merrill, a 23-year old melanoma skin cancer survivor and recent SFU grad. "Because I'm a melanoma skin cancer survivor, I feel very strongly about prevention and the power to encourage behavioural change among young people."

According to the most recent estimates from 2010*, the economic burden of skin cancer in Canada was $532 million per year. Of that, approximately 83% was attributable to melanoma and the remainder to the two major types of non-melanoma skin cancer - approximately 9% to basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 8% to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It was estimated that the economic burden of skin cancer would rise to $922 million annually by 2031, with BCC and SCC accounting for an increasing proportion of costs.

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. Of these newly diagnosed cases, 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.

Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014 was prepared through a partnership of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Statistics Canada and provincial and territorial cancer registries. For more information about Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014, visit cancer.ca

* Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. The economic burden of skin cancer in Canada: current and projected. Final Report: CPAC, Feb. 26, 2010.

The Canadian Cancer Society is a national, community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is to eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer. Thanks to our donors and volunteers, the Society has the most impact, against the most cancers, in the most communities in Canada. Building on our progress, we are working with Canadians to change cancer forever. For more information, visit cancer.ca or call our toll-free bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333 (TTY 1-866-786-3934).

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (BC and Yukon Division)

Image with caption: "Sarah Merrill, 23-year-old melanoma skin cancer survivor, speaks to her experience and helps the Canadian Cancer Society promote sun safety. (CNW Group/Canadian Cancer Society (BC and Yukon Division))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140528_C7021_PHOTO_EN_40778.jpg

For further information:

Gina Ungaro
Coordinator, Media Relations
Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon
604-313-8097  |  gungaro@bc.cancer.ca

Sheila Dong
Manager, Media Relations & Communications
Canadian Cancer Society, BC and Yukon
604-802-2321  |  sdong@bc.cancer.ca