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About 75,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with non-malignant skin cancer this year, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association. ((Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press))

Skin cancer rates among younger Canadians are rising just as the number of skin specialists available is set to decline.

Canadians born in the 1990s are two to three times more likely to get skin cancer in their lifetime than those born in the 1960s, says the Canadian Dermatology Association, which is holding its annual meeting in Vancouver.

The rate for those born in the 1990s is one in six, compared with one in 20 for the older group, it says.

An estimated 75,000 Canadians will be diagnosed with non-malignant skin cancer this year, the association says.

Of that number, 5,000 will learn they have malignant melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It often starts out as a coloured mole or spot, but can spread fast to surrounding skin and other organs.

While cancer rates are rising for younger Canadians, however, the retirement rate of skin specialists could lead to a possible doctor shortage.

"Twenty-two per cent of dermatologists will retire in the next five years, and 45 per cent of dermatologists are expected to retire in the next 10 years," Dr. Jason River, a spokesman for the Canadian Dermatology Association, told CBC news.

"We're seeing a definite shortage, and it will become more critical as time goes on," he said.

"Dermatologists themselves are striving to increase our capacity to see patients," Dr. Larry Warshawski, the association's outgoing president, told The Canadian Press.

"Our problem right now is numbers. There are only about 650 dermatologists across the country right now," he said.

Longer waiting times

A further concern for the association is that wait times to see a dermatologist have been steadily increasing, as well. They have doubled in the last five years to about 10 weeks, Warshawski said.

Dermatologists are medical specialists who deal with diseases of the skin, hair and nails, the association says on its website. It can take 13-15 years to become a dermatologist, including four years of undergraduate study, four years of medical school, a five-year residency, and optional fellowships of one to two years, the website says.

While the dermatologists meet in B.C., their association continues to promote the need for public awareness for diagnosis, treatment and prevention, including from the sun and from tanning beds.

"We need to have legislation and healthy public policies to encourage people to have healthy sun behaviours," Sue McPhail, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Cancer Society told CBC News.

With files from The Canadian Press