Skin cancer cases continue to rise: ASDS survey
Not only are skin cancer treatments again the top procedure performed by American Society for Dermatologic Surgery members, but the number of cases also continues to rise, according to a recent ASDS survey.
ASDS members performed more than 3 million skin cancer treatments in 2013, an increase of 13 percent from 2012, according to the 2013 ASDS Survey on Dermatologic Procedures released last month.
Skin cancer is by far the most common of all cancers, with one in five Americans expected to develop some type of skin cancer in his or her lifetime. The number of these cancers – including deadly melanoma and the generally treatable basal and squamous cell skin cancers – has been rising for many years.
“The increases we’re seeing are partly because people are living longer. The older you are, the more skin cancers you get,” said Marc Brown, MD, a member of the ASDS Board of Directors and a New York dermatologic surgeon. “The other primary reason is exposure to ultraviolet light, from both the sun and indoor tanning.”
Of the 3.04 million skin cancer treatments ASDS physicians performed, 2.85 million were for basal cell or squamous cell cancers. ASDS dermatologic surgeons completed 190,000 treatments for melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. Melanoma comprises less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. With early detection and proper treatment, most melanomas are easily cured with minor surgical procedures, Dr. Brown said. Once melanoma leaves the skin and spreads inside the body, cure rates drop dramatically.
Physicians stress a three-fold preventive approach of protection, early recognition and diagnosis, and screenings.
“People should protect themselves from the sun with sunscreen and clothing,” said Dr. Brown. “Early recognition and diagnosis helps because cancers are much easier to treat when they’re caught early while they’re small. People also should be aware of screenings and should know what to look for. Many already do. Patients themselves frequently find suspicious lesions or changes in their skin.”
He also recommended people know their risk factors and perhaps adjust screenings accordingly. High-risk patients¬ should be screened annually. Dr. Brown stressed that those who find a suspicious lesion or mole seek medical attention, whether they’re high-risk or not.
Offering treatment options
Dermatologic surgeons specialize in treating the health and function of the skin, making them the logical choice for skin cancer treatment.
“We have multiple ways to treat cancers, from simple procedures to more complex surgical treatments,” Dr. Brown said. “We really understand the skin and low-risk and high-risk cases. We have the ability to recognize if a lesion is benign, precancerous or malignant, and we have multiple modalities for treatment. We are the experts in skin cancer.”
Find more information on skin cancer and treatments – including myths, do’s and don’ts and a downloadable skin cancer treatment questionnaire and self-exam kit –at asds.net/skincancerinformation.aspx.