Skin Cancer Top Priority For Dermatologists
Education and Advocacy The second-hardest thing any dermatologist has to do is deliver a diagnosis of melanoma cancer to a patient.
he hardest thing to watch, in a minority of cases, is one of our patients perishing from the disease in spite of treatment.
Skin cancers as a group — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and the most serious, melanoma — represent the most common form of all cancers. About one in three new cancer cases in Canada is skin cancer.
Skin cancer on the rise
The incidence of melanoma in Canadians has almost doubled since 1985, from 8.7 to 15.9 cases per 100,000 people. Outdoor workers are particularly at risk — having an estimated 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk of skin cancer.
Ironically, as our understanding of the dangers of skin cancer increases, we have adopted new behaviours that put us at greater risk. Witness the annual march to tanning salons as high school students get ready for prom.
The great tragedy hidden behind these facts is skin cancer is highly preventable. We do not simply have to sit back and despondently accept the toll it takes on society.
The great tragedy hidden behind these facts is skin cancer is highly preventable. We do not simply have to sit back and despondently accept the toll it takes on society. We just need to change our attitude, in much the same way that we have changed with regards to smoking.
Educating the public
For dermatologists, the number one priority is slowing and possibly reversing the toll of skin cancer through education. Every year, we mount a sun awareness campaign in early June. A survey conducted for last year’s campaign shows efforts like these are having an impact. People understand and retain the messages.
However, there is still work to be done. Putting on sunscreen, covering up in the sun, avoiding sun exposure during peak hours, seeking shade, implementing workplace sun safety measures — should all be second nature.
When we see friends or family members exposing themselves to unnecessary risk from the sun, we need to encourage them to change. In order to reverse rising skin cancer numbers, we must make sun safety a matter of social responsibility that all of us carry.