‘Holidays in Israel may raise skin cancer risk’
THE JEWISH community may have a heightened risk of developing skin cancer, according to a leading dermatologist.
Dr Howard Stevens, consultant dermatologist and surgeon, warned he had noticed a higher prevalence of skin cancer among his Jewish patients in comparison to the general population.
He said: “There is a high number of the Jewish population that seem to have cancer syndromes, so I suspect there is an increased risk.
“It’s certainly something we have noticed in north London, that the incidents of skin cancer seem to be higher than expected.”
Dr Stevens said he believed the reasons Jews were more at risk were twofold: frequent visits to Israel, where sun exposure is extremely high, and the fact melanomas run in families.
The surgeon suggested Jewish patients’ frequent holidays in warmer climates — with many visiting Israel at least once a year — were a potential problem.
“Any group who has more holidays than average is going to increase its risk of skin cancer,” he said. “Meanwhile, there is also a genetic component.
“If your parents
Dr Howard Stevens have a melanoma, then you have an increased risk of getting it yourself.” To take preventative action, Dr Stevens advised always using SPF 30 or above sun cream and covering up in hats and clothing under the sun. He said: “All the skin has to be protected, not just the sun-exposed areas, because there is that genetic component as well.”
Rivka Zelcer-Froehlich, spokeswoman of the Israel Cancer Association (ICA), said Israelis as well as tourists should protect themselves from the sun, even in winter.
She said: “We didn’t find evidencebased research of a genetic predisposition to develop skin cancer, which is specific to the Jewish population. “Nonetheless, immediate family history of melanoma puts one at a higher risk. We also know that research has found a correlation between BRCA2 mutation and melanoma.” Ms Zelcer-Froehlich said that Israel had dropped on the list of countries with highest incidence of melanoma from third-worst in the world, to 13th for men and 20th for women.
“We initiated in Israel very successful educational campaigns about sun smart behaviour,” she said. “But tourists might not be aware of the dangers.”