News in brief: Melanoma patients defer seeking treatment; Dermatologist agrees to stop practising; Sun avoidance not bad for bone health

3 Nov 2021


Melanoma patients defer seeking treatment

A 20% drop in the number of new melanoma patients attending for specialist treatment has raised concerns that COVID lockdowns may have deterred patients from seeking potentially life-saving treatment.

Figures released by Melanoma Institute Australia, show the number of new patients attending for treatment dropped to a 12-year low in 2021

Co-Medical Director  Professor Richard Scolyer said the decline raised fears of patients not seeking treatment and presenting later with more advanced disease and poorer prognosis.

‘We don’t think this drop in new patients means less Australians actually have melanoma, it just means that COVID has delayed them seeking medical advice and being diagnosed,’ he said

In 2019, 2,015 new patients attended Melanoma Institute Australia’s treatment centre in Sydney for specialist care but numbers dropped by 363 to 1,652 (18% reduction) in 2020, the lowest number of new patients since 2009.

New patient numbers for the first nine months of 2021 are lower again (1,169 as of 30 September), indicating the annual drop on 2019 pre-COVID patient numbers will surpass 20%.

The COVID pandemic, and associated lockdown difficulties coupled with a reluctance of patients to seek medical advice or have regular skin checks, are the most likely causes for this drop in patient numbers, said Professor Scolyer

In response, the Institute has brought forward the launch of its ‘Game On Mole’ awareness campaign.

Dermatologist agrees to stop practising

Melbourne dermatologist Dr Daniel Lanzer has agreed not to practise as a medical practitioner following allegations about inappropriate practises at his cosmetic surgery clinics aired on ABC Four Corners TV program.

The program included allegations from patients and former staff about hygiene and safety breaches and inappropriate procedures that left patients with ongoing health issues.

The Medical Board of Australia released a statement saying Dr Lanzer had accepted a legally enforceable undertaking that precludes him from undertaking all forms of medical practice in Australia.

“Our enquiries in relation to Dr Lanzer are ongoing. Because of confidentiality provisions in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, we are unable to provide further comment at this time.

Sun avoidance not bad for bone health

The sun-avoidance behaviours promoted by to prevent skin cancer do not lead to lower poor bone health and fracture risk from low vitamin D levels, a US study has found.

A population-based cross-sectional study with data from 3418 adults showed the prevalence of practices such as staying in the shade, wearing of long sleeves, and sunscreen use were 32% 12% and 26% respectively. The use of sun-protective behaviours was not associated with reductions in BMD z scores, according to dermatologists from the Mayo Clinic, writing in JAMA Dermatology.

They noted that moderate to frequent staying in the shade was associated with reduced prevalence of spine fractures in the multivariate model (odds ratio, 0.19), possibly due to risk averse behaviours.

“These reassuring findings add to the growing body of evidence on the safety of sun protection, with no considerable negative association with bone health,” they concluded.

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