Skin cancer screening

Due to the prevalence of skin cancer, the State Secretary for Health, Welfare and Sport requested that the Health Council of the Netherlands review whether introducing a screening programme for skin cancer would be expedient. A key requirement underpinning the introduction of a screening programme is that its usefulness has been established and that its benefits outweigh any disadvantages, which, the Council has determined, is not the case for skin cancer. There is no scientific evidence that a programme of this type would be beneficial. Any added value offered by a screening programme is expected to be low, given that many cases are already detected at an early stage and the mortality rate is low.

Care for people with a suspicious lesion on their skin usually starts at the GP, who carries out a risk assessment and will either treat the lesion themselves or refer the patient to a dermatologist. People suspected to have a familial or hereditary predisposition to melanoma are offered a periodic skin examination and genetic testing. Survival rates for skin cancer are high with the current detection and treatment strategies for suspicious lesions.

Excessive exposure to sunlight and sunburn in combination with a light skin tone are the principal risk factors for skin cancer. Behaviour can therefore significantly reduce the risk of skin cancer (e.g. not staying in the sun for long periods of time, covering the skin and using a high factor sun cream). The Steering Committee for Skin Cancer Care in the Netherlands (Stuurgroep Huidkankerzorg Nederland) and RIVM are working on more intensive information provision. The Health Council of the Netherlands emphasises the importance of behavioural change and information provision. In the future, apps for suspicious skin lesions may play a role in the detection of skin cancer, however, this requires more development and research.