Sun Protection and Early Detection

According to the 2014 American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) Survey on Dermatologic Procedures, 94% of ASDS members performed an estimated 3.08 million skin cancer treatments last year. This represents a 15% increase since 2011, with the total growing each year.

Of those skin cancer procedures performed, 207,000 were for melanoma—one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. This is a 9% increase over 2013. Non-melanoma treatments also increased slightly.

“Non-melanoma skin cancers tend to occur on sun-exposed parts of the body such as the head, neck and forearms,” explained Ian Maher, M.D., ASDS member, in a press statement. “Melanomas most commonly occur on areas of the body that receive intermittent, high-intensity sun exposure such as the backs of men or the legs of women.”

Rising skin cancer incidence rates are largely tied to intentional tanning and longer life expectancies, said Maher.

“Scientists continue to work hard on developing non-surgical treatments for skin cancers such as melanoma,” noted Maher in a press statement. “However, if you look at the data from even the most promising new melanoma drugs, they're really only increasing life by a matter of months. We still need to be focusing hard on skin cancer prevention—getting folks to wear sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and avoiding direct sunlight when possible.”

Early detection of skin cancer is vitally important, he said.

“That means keeping skin cancer awareness high and educating primary care doctors and the public at large as to the warning signs of skin cancer is going to be incredibly important to help us keep on top of this epidemic,” added Maher in a press statement.

A significant development in skin cancer education occurred in early 2015 when ASDS released the first-ever set of consensus recommendations for the treatment of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer. The authors agreed Mohs Micrographic Surgery is the “treatment of choice” for high-risk BCCs and those on cosmetically sensitive body sites.

“The development of the modern incarnation of Mohs surgery 30 years ago has provided us with a cost-effective and highly efficacious treatment option for high-risk skin cancers,” said Maher in a press statement. “Field therapies such as chemotherapy creams, photodynamic therapy and immune response modifiers can treat precancerous lesions and decrease the number of skin cancers a patient gets over time.”

More in Methods/Tools