Rise in Skin Cancer Prompts Call for Action

Monday, 28 Jan 2013 10:49 AM

By Nick Tate

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A new American Cancer Society report showing the U.S. cancer death rate has fallen 20 percent 1991 contained one glaring exception to that overall trend: Rates of new cases of melanoma skin cancer are rising among men and women.

That upward trend has prompted the American Academy of Dermatology to launch a new campaign to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of this highly preventable, but deadly form of cancer. Unlike other varieties of the disease, skin cancer provides visual warning signs that can be detected on the surface of the skin in the form of a spot that changes, itches, or bleeds, dermatologists note.

When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Among the academy’s recommendations:

·         Perform regular skin self-exams to check for unusual spots or conditions;

·         Reduce your exposure to sunlight, tanning parlors, and other sources of ultraviolet light that promote the development of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer;

·         Seek shade, wear sunscreen, and protective clothing when outdoors — even in colder weather.

·         See a dermatologist regularly for a cancer screening.

·         Visit the academy’s online skin cancer guide — at SpotSkinCancer.org — to learn how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map for tracking changes in your skin, and find free skin cancer screenings.

The new American Cancer Society report estimated 1,660,290 new cancer cases will be diagnosed and 580,350 deaths from cancer will occur in the U.S. in 2013. Between 1991 and 2009, the most recent year for which complete information is available, overall cancer death rates decreased by 24 percent in men, 16 percent in women, and 20 percent overall. This translates to almost 1.2 million fewer deaths from cancer.

The report found death rates continue to decline for lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers, which account for the most cancer deaths. Since 1991, death rates have decreased by 40 for prostate cancer, and 30 percent for colon cancer, breast cancer in women, and lung cancer in men.  But these positive downward trends were accompanied by an increase in melanoma among both men and women. Rates also have risen for cancers of the liver and thyroid.

African-American men also have a 14 percent higher rate of new cancer cases and a 33 percent higher death rate than white men, the report found. African-American women have a 6 percent lower rate of new cancer cases, but a 16 percent higher death rate than white women. But in the past decade, the most rapid decline in death rates occurred among African-American men (2.4 percent per year) and Hispanic men (2.3 percent per year).

Authors of the report noted many cancer cases are preventable, with about one-third of all cancer deaths in 2012 caused by tobacco use and another one-quarter to one-third related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

“In 2009, Americans had a 20 percent lower risk of death from cancer than they did in 1991, a milestone that shows we truly are creating more birthdays,” said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society in a statement.

“But we must also recognize that not all demographic groups have benefited equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends. We can and must close this gap so that people are not punished for having the misfortune of being born poor and disadvantaged.”

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