‘Hol­i­days in Is­rael may raise skin can­cer risk’

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

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.”

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