Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 08:22 UK

Mole check offer sparks concern

By Eleanor Bradford
Health Correspondent, BBC Scotland

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Skin cancer is Scotland's fastest growing cancer

Skin specialists attending a conference in Glasgow have been told not to offer free mole checks to the public, BBC Scotland has learned.

Health experts in the city were worried doctors would not be able to cope with an increase in referrals.

Delegates at the British Association of Dermatologists conference at the SECC had planned to offer checks for skin cancer as part of the three-day event.

Greater Glasgow health board said its priority was patients referred by GPs.

Skin cancer is Scotland's fastest growing cancer.

At this time of year cancer charities are keen to encourage people to stay safe in the sun and have any suspicious moles checked out.

If the association had involved local departments in discussions at a much earlier stage, rather than including the event in the programme without prior consultation, then local dermatologists may have been able to assist with an appropriate event
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde statement

However, dermatology departments are under pressure - the number of suspicious moles amongst men in Scotland increased by 40% last year alone.

The Scottish Government expects anyone with an urgent referral for suspected skin cancer to be seen within two months, but Glasgow has struggled to meet this target.

The British Association of Dermatologists said mole checks carried out elsewhere had not resulted in a huge surge in cases.

They said checks would normally pick up three suspicious moles for every 100 people seen.

However the association declined to comment further, saying they did not want to get into a '"war of words' with colleagues who were struggling with the number of skin cancer cases.

Anthony Hubbard, from the Karen Clifford skin cancer charity Skcin, said they detected 17 cases of skin cancer during mole checks at the Chelsea Flower Show.

Three of them were very serious.

Demanding workload

When asked if he was surprised by the situation in Glasgow he said: "Yes and no. I'm surprised because dermatologists are there to detect skin cancer and we know there's a lot of it out there, but they probably can't cope with the extra burden on the system."

Scotland's skin cancer charity, Melanoma Action and Support Scotland, said it had tried to carry out mole checks before but had to abandon them because of a lack of NHS support.

Leigh Smith said: "We need more dermatologists, more dermatology provision and more training for GPs so they can spot skin cancer too."

Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer
Melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of cancer

A statement from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: "Our dermatology directorate has a very demanding workload and its first priority has to be to ensure that patients referred by their general practitioners with possible skin cancer are seen as quickly as possible.

"If the association had involved local departments in discussions at a much earlier stage, rather than including the event in the programme without prior consultation, then local dermatologists may have been able to assist with an appropriate event.

"It was still open to dermatologists to participate as individuals, but at this time of year of peak demand, many are committed to pre-arranged and additional clinics for referred patients; other staff are on annual leave."

The statement added that anyone identified with a suspicion of melanoma by a consultant dermatologist at the conference should be referred to their own GP who would then refer the patient to a clinic to be treated as soon as possible.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "No-one who thinks they may have a suspicious mole should be put off seeking expert advice.

"Anyone with any concerns about their skin should in the first instance contact their GP, who can arrange for a referral to a dermatology specialist."



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