I thank the hon. Gentleman for yet another excellent intervention, and I completely agree. In fact, I will come to those points now.
The Isle of Wight is a specific hotspot for skin cancer. I think it has the worst skin cancer rates in the United Kingdom, primarily as a result of certain factors. First, we still have a very white population, and the paler your skin, the more likely you are to develop melanomas. Secondly, we have an ageing population, and melanomas are cumulative. Thirdly, we have a very outdoors lifestyle on the Island, with golf, sailing, a lot of community activity and a lot of gardening. For the Isle of Wight’s retirement community especially, to be out in the sun aged 60 or 70 doing activities such as sailing, which is very harsh on the skin because of the interaction of sun and water, encourages melanomas. Fortunately, we have one of the best dermatology centres in Britain at Newport’s Lighthouse clinic, and I thank its doctors and staff for doing an excellent job. I have been there myself in the past couple of years, and I know what a great job they do.
In the NHS long-term plan, the Government committed that the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages 1 or 2 will rise from about half to three quarters of all cancer patients, meaning that some 55,000 more people a year should survive cancer for at least five years after diagnosis.
Pilot schemes in various parts of the country are trying to improve the diagnosis of skin cancers and melanomas. One option to improve this still further is what, on the Island, we call Zoe’s law, but it would effectively be a change of practice within the NHS. Eileen, Zoe’s mum, and her family are doing it in memory of Zoe, and it would require all moles and skin tags removed from the body to be tested for melanoma. I am not expecting an off-the-cuff answer from the Minister on this point, but I would very much like her to write to me so that I can pass on her comments to Eileen and the rest of Zoe’s family. If that cannot be done now, I would like to know why not.
I would also like to know what more could be done in future, because thousands of people are needlessly dying every year. Skin cancers kill more slowly than many other cancers and are certainly more treatable than cancers such as lung cancer and pancreatic cancer. Eileen said Zoe thought of everyone before herself. When Zoe was dying, she said, “The most important thing is that other people do not have to go through this”—she left two young kids.
The idea of testing all removed moles and skin tags is potentially very popular, and a petition started by the family has now reached some 35,000 signatures. Tanya Bleiker, the previous president of the British Association of Dermatologists, recommended that all skin lesions, even if removed for cosmetic reasons, as Zoe’s was, should be sent for histopathological testing to confirm that they are benign—the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) also made that recommendation—because they might be deep rooted in the skin. Mr Ashton, one of our consultant dermatologists on the Isle of Wight, explained to me on Friday that innocent-looking moles can sometimes be the most deadly. They might look benign on the surface, but underneath they are malignant and hide melanoma.
I urge the Government to set out further plans on raising awareness of moles, as this is relatively easy to do. If I understand correctly, including this in nurse training and general practitioner training, especially in sunnier parts of the country along the south coast—places like Cornwall, Devon, the Isle of Wight and Hampshire—could be exceptionally valuable.