Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Interview with the Skin Cancer Foundation (Part 1)

In working with the people at The Skin Cancer Foundation on an episode of "What You Can Do" for Health Week, we had the opportunity to interview them about skin cancer. Have a look at Part 1!

What is The Skin Cancer Foundation's main goal?

Since its founding in 1979, The Skin Cancer Foundation has set the standard for educating the public and the medical profession about skin cancer, its prevention by means of sun protection, the need for early detection, and prompt, effective treatment. It is the only international organization devoted solely to combating the world’s most common cancer, now occurring at epidemic levels.

The incidence of skin cancer can be dramatically reduced through education, behavior modification, and early detection. Skin cancer is primarily a lifestyle disease, which is why The Skin Cancer Foundation emphasizes public awareness and education campaigns.

Why has the incidence of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) risen?

Approximately 68,720 new invasive melanomas will be diagnosed this year in the US, with nearly 8,650 resulting in death. Another 50,000 patients will be diagnosed with melanoma in situ (melanoma that has not invaded past the skin surface). There are several theories on why melanoma rates have risen so dramatically. For one, more people have their skin screened for suspicious growths, which means that fewer cancers go undetected. This is a good thing, because if melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable.

There has also been a steady rise in tanning bed use over the last 30 years. Today, an estimated one million Americans visit a tanning salon every day. A recent study found that indoor ultraviolet (UV) tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. The more time a person has spent tanning indoors, the higher the risk.

Other factors that could be contributing to the increase in melanoma incidence include more time spent outdoors, fashion (more exposed skin), and holidays spent in sunny climes. The intense, intermittent sun exposure (the kind that can cause sunburn) received on a tropical vacation is associated with a higher risk of melanoma.

Additionally, the incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancers has risen significantly: more than two million people in the US develop over 3.5 million nonmelanoma skin cancers every year. This constitutes a more than 300 percent increase in skin cancer incidence since 1994, when rates were last estimated.

Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), are the most common forms of skin cancer. Though they are rarely life-threatening, they can be disfiguring when not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

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