Skin cancer prevention targets new parents

2:33 min

Two thirds of parents feel that they were better able to protect their babies from the harmful effects of the sun after they were warned about skin cancer at their local children's healthcare centre.  

The information campaign is a pilot project in Västra Götaland and targets parents of Babies and toddlers in the region who take their offspring for routine check-ups at their local healthcare centre (BVC). It warns of the risks of the skin cancer malignant melanoma, one of the fastest growing cancer diagnoses in Sweden, particularly in the south of the country, according to figures from the Swedish Cancer Society.

"It is extremely important to work proactively to reduce the pressure on cancer care in 50 years time. The increase is particularly serious because melanoma can be prevented and therefore we have to work with this," says Shirin Bartholdsson, project manager at Cancer centre West, to Swedish Radio News.

Little Pauline, just over a week old, protests a little when her mother gets the information on the need to be careful with her baby in the summer months, during  her first BVC visit.

The project in the Västra Götaland region will expand to another four counties in southern Sweden.

The evaluation shows that although parents thought they had good knowledge on the dangers of the sun, two out of three said that they felt that they were better able to protect their children from the sun after reading the information leaflets.

And Pauline's mother, Helena Adamik, is satisfied.

"The information is good. I refer in particular to my older daughter who was born in the middle of summer and you are not familiar with the issue, so it is good to be reminded," says Helena Adamik to Swedish Radio News, on a visit to the BVC in Gothenburg.

About half of all young Swedes are suntanning for long periods on vacations, despite the fact that most are aware of the risks.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority issued a report last year saying that suntanning is especially common among 18 - 24 year olds. And the younger someone suntans, the larger the risk of later developing the skin cancer malignant melanoma.

One of the problems of associated with skin cancer is the lack of knowledge amongst non specialist doctors in spotting the warning signs.

A smart phone coupled with a magnifying glass could help doctors identify skin cancer earlier. At the Sahlgrenska hospital in Gothenburg doctors are hoping to make the very successful method a common practice.

Today it can take a long time before a patient gets to see a dermatologist, and general practitioners lack the expertise needed to evaluate more complicated birth marks, news agency TT reports. In the Västra Götaland region, patients have instead been able to send in pictures of their birth marks, taken with a dermatoscope - a magnifying glass connected to a smart phone.

During a trial period in 2012, the method proved very successful. In the test group, all cases of malignant melanoma were identified. In the control group, 6 cases out of 20 were misdiagnosed and treatment was delayed.