Letters Melanoma and military staff

Help for retired armed forces and merchant navy staff with skin cancer

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7733 (Published 13 December 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7733
  1. Suzanne E Thomson, CT2 plastic surgery1,
  2. Sabrina Butcher, ST3 plastic surgery1
  1. 1James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough TS4 3BW, UK
  1. suzanne.thomson{at}doctors.org.uk

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance on improving outcomes for people with skin tumours recommends that all patients and carers should have access to high quality information about their condition and its management and to relevant support services.1 2 As doctors we focus predominantly on diagnosis and management, sometimes not appreciating fully the support networks available to patients—for example, the Veterans Agency war pensions scheme.3

Retired armed forces and merchant navy staff are eligible to claim a war disablement pension under the war pensions scheme if they have sustained injury or disability as a result of service before April 2005. The Veterans Agency provides information and support on eligibility and assists in the completion of applications. Melanotic and non-melanotic skin cancers are listed in the synopses of causation of disability by the Ministry of Defence and are subject to compensation.4 5 Exposure to ultraviolet light is cited as a significant aetiological factor in the development of these cancers.6

Informal feedback from colleagues in our plastic surgery unit suggests that recognition of the relevance of overseas work in the armed forces, knowledge of the scheme, identification of eligible patients, and knowledge of how to access the information are poor. Once these factors are considered, however, clinicians regularly assessing skin cancers, particularly general practitioners, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons, can easily provide oral or written information on the scheme to veterans.


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7733


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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