Despite the fact that skin cancer is the only cancer that can be seen on the surface of the skin, a new survey by the American Academy of Dermatology reports that a large number of people are not taking the time to examine their skin for any changes that could be warning signs of skin cancer or seeing a health-care provider for a skin cancer screening.
The “Suntelligence: How Sun Smart is Your City?” online survey polled more than 7,000 adults nationwide to determine their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors toward tanning, sun protection and skin cancer detection. Twenty-six cities were ranked based on respondents’ answers to several questions in each category.
“Each year, substantially more than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States,” said dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine. “Like many cancers, skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early before it spreads. In fact, studies show that the five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent – making early detection essential.”
However, the survey found that 28 percent of all respondents indicated never examining their skin for changes to moles and other skin blemishes. Analyzing the data by gender and age, more men (32 percent) than women (25 percent) indicated that they never examine their skin. In addition, more young adults 18-29 years old (32 percent) reported never examining their skin than any other age group.
When asked about getting screened for skin cancer by a health-care provider, 59 percent had never been examined. More young adults age 18-29 (69 percent) reported never getting screened for skin cancer by a health-care provider.
“The fact that younger people are not getting screened for skin cancer is alarming, especially since research shows that melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old,” said Dr. Draelos.
To help people of all ages spot any new or developing lesions that could be potential warning signs of skin cancer, the Academy recommends periodic self-examinations of the entire body (including hard-to-reach spots). Dr. Draelos added that enlisting the help of a loved one can be beneficial in monitoring changes in the skin and spotting skin cancer.
“Studies show that involving a partner in the self-examination process and having regular screenings by a health-care provider can improve the early detection of skin cancer,” explained Dr. Draelos. “These types of regular screenings could lead to fewer deaths if skin cancer is caught early in its most treatable stages.”
In addition, the Academy offers a body mole map, a tool individuals can use to track their moles. The map provides information on how to perform a skin exam, images of the ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection and space for people to track their moles to determine any changes over time.
May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month®. Since the program’s inception in 1985, dermatologists have volunteered to conduct more than 2 million free skin cancer screenings across the country and detected more than 200,000 suspicious lesions. Visit www.melanomamonday.org to take the Academy’s “Suntelligence” survey, as well as to find out how to perform a skin self-exam, download a body mole map or find free skin cancer screenings in your area.
To enhance a patient’s ability to detect skin cancer, the Academy advises learning the ABCDEs of melanoma detection. The following are characteristics of moles for which individuals should check their skin:
Asymmetry (one half unlike the other half)
Border (irregular, scalloped or poorly defined)
Color (varies from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue)
Diameter (the size of a pencil eraser or larger)
Evolving (changing in size, shape or color)
“A mole with any of these characteristics, or one that is an ‘ugly duckling’, meaning it looks different from the rest, should be brought to a dermatologist’s attention,” said Dr. Draelos.
For more information, contact the American Academy of Dermatology at 888-462-DERM (3376) or visit Aad.org.