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Skin cancer costing millions

Shock new figures reveal skin cancer costs New Zealand at least $123 million a year.

A report for the Cancer Society says treatment of the preventable disease costs the health system more than $57m. An estimated $66m is from loss of life and income.

The study, by Wellington School of Medicine health economist Des O’Dea, concludes the preventive sector needs more money.

Cancer Society Skin Cancer Prevention Advisor Dr Judith Galtry said the charity had repeatedly asked the Ministry of Health for more cash – but to no avail.

Galtry blamed a “policy gap” between the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and said “everything falls down this great abyss between the two ministries”.

New Zealand has the world’s highest death rate rate from skin cancer.

In 2005, the latest year for which figures are available, there were 2017 new melanoma cases, 1107 men and 910 women.

The most recent figures are for 2006 where the figure leapt to 287 deaths, up from 269 in 2005, and 244 in 2001.

O’Dea’s report concludes that New Zealand spends just $2m a year on preventive measures – more than half of that comes from the Cancer Society.

The Cancer Society gives about $500,000 a year to the SunSmart Schools Programme, which teaches primary school pupils to stay out of the sun.

But SunSmart programme manager Wayde Beckman said the organisation didn’t have enough money to meet demand.

“With what we’ve got we’re doing the best we can. The fact is we don’t have a lot of funding.”

Otago University cancer researcher Dr Tony Reeder said steps to avoid cancer were relatively easy and more people, particularly children, need to be informed of them.

“There are potential cost savings there for the health system.”

Health Minister Tony Ryall said he was unable to find out how much the Government spent on prevention.

He said the Ministry of Health pumps $4m a year into the Health Promoting Schools programme but the resources situation could “always be improved”.

He has asked the Cancer Control Council and the Ministry of Health whether funding could be improved. 

Source: Herald on Sunday


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