Source: The The Australian, Wednesday, 11 June, 1997, p.3


Women halt melanoma march

By medical writer JUSTINE FERRARI 
 
   THE first signs of a stalling in the 
relentless rise in the number of 
Australians with the potentially fatal 
skin cancer melanoma has appeared 
with a report suggesting the incidence 
among women has plateaued. 
 
   A report by the NSW Cancer Council 
shows that the rate of women 
developing the disease in 
NSW-which has the nation's second 
highest rate of melanoma-rose by 
only 03 per cent a year over the 12 
years to 1995 while the death rate fell 
by 0.8 per cent a year. 
 
   Women appear to be heeding the 
lessons of slip, slop, slap more than 
men, with the incidence of melanoma 
in men Up by an average 4.1 per cent a 
year over the same period, while deaths 
from the disease increased by 1.7 per 
cent. 
 
   One of the authors of the report and 
director of the council's Cancer 
Control Information Centre, Bruce 
Armstrong, said it was the first time in 
Australia "we see definite evidence that 
the incidence is plateauing". 
 
   "We're very near the peak of the 
epidemic," he said. Rates were 
stabilising similarly in Queensland, 
which had the world's highest rates of 
melanoma, although the latest data was 
unavailable. The incidence continues 
to rise in the rest of the country. 
 
   The encouraging report comes on the 
eve of the 4th World Conference on 
Melanoma-opened officially in 
Sydney last night by the Governor- 
General, Sir William Deane-where 
promising developments in treating 
the disease will be presented, including 
the effect of a positive attitude in 
prolonging life. 
 
   The research director of the Sydney 
Melanoma Unit at Royal Prince Alfred 
Hospital, Alan Coates, said for the 
first time that preliminary results 
suggested a patient's belief that their 
treatment would cure their disease could 
as much as double their length of life. 
 
   A study of 125 patients with melon- 
oma that had spread to a fatal stage 
showed those with a positive attitude 
lived an average 12 months while 
those with a more negative frame of 
mind lived an average six months. 
 
   "Those people who seem to believe 
the aim of their treatment is to cure 
them have lived twice as long as 
people who believe rather more 
realistically their treatment is ... 
relieving symptoms or prolonging life 
to a limited extent," Dr Coates said. 
 
   Researchers from the Sydney 
Melanoma Unit will also present the 
results of the world's biggest vaccine 
trial, involving more than 700 
patients, which increased their rate of 
surviving the disease by 17 per cent. 
 
   The head of the unit and secretary 
general of the conference, William 
McCarthy, said the vaccine aimed to 
prevent melanoma recurring in 
patients with large melanoma or where 
it had spread to the lymph nodes, by 
boosting their immune system. 
 
   The vaccine is made from melanoma 
cells which are infected with cowpox 
virus to kill the cell but retain the 
protein from the melanoma cell.


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