The American Society for Dermatological Surgery reports that in 2012, more skin cancer treatments were performed than any other treatment related to skin disorders. Nearly three million procedures were implemented on melanomas and precancerous skin lesions, with phototherapy and laser light treatments being the second most performed skin procedure. Soft tissue fillers and neurotoxin injections meant to eliminate wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin came in as the third most popular skin treatment procedure of 2012.
Several alarming statistics further support this report by the ASDS:
- Between 1992 and 2006, incidences of non-melanoma skin cancer rose by almost 80 percent (1).
- Since 1980, more people have experienced some form of skin cancer than any other type of cancer, including breast, lung or prostate cancer (2).
- It is estimated that approximately 58 million people living in the U.S. have actinic keratosis, a common type of precancerous growth that often goes undetected and untreated (3).
- Melanoma rates increased in younger women by 800 percent while rates increased by 400 percent in men between 1970 and 2009 (4).
- The cause of nearly 90 percent of skin cancers not described as melanoma is associated with overexposure to UV radiation emitted by the sun (5).
Why have so many people developed skin cancer over the past 30 years and why do incidences of diagnosed skin cancer appear to show no signs of improving? Is there anything that people can do to reduce their chances of getting skin cancer?
The Science behind the Prevalence of Skin Cancer Treatments
Prior to the 80s, gaseous compounds called chlorofluorocarbons had been freely used for decades as ingredients in a vast variety of everyday items such cooling systems, spray cans and industrial drying and cleaning agents. Consequently, CFCs infiltrating the Earth’s upper atmosphere released damaging amounts of chlorine that created massive holes in the ozone layer, a section of the atmosphere responsible for absorbing large quantities of harmful UV rays emanating from the Sun.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the international community finally addressed the situation and created the Montreal Protocol, which banned the use of CFCs. Although CFC levels have declined in recent years, the level of radiation reaching the Earth–and specifically our skin–is still much higher than it should be. Further weakening the ability of the ozone to diminish the harmful effects of radiation from the sun are pollution and global warming. This inability of the ozone to prevent abnormally strong UV rays from entering and damaging cell DNA is just one of the primary forces behind rising rates of skin cancer.
The other reason attributed to the increase of skin cancer treatments over the past decade is the use of tanning beds. Popularized in the 1980s, tanning beds drastically raise the risk of developing skin cancer due to the strength and concentration of UV light rays striking a person’s skin once inside the bed. In addition, even though someone may use a tanning bed only once a week for 15 minutes, he or she will usually spend a substantial amount of time outside being exposed to more ultraviolet radiation.
Available Skin Cancer Treatments
Fortunately, treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer have advanced tremendously in the past few years and exhibit high success rates for cancers that are detected in their early stages. Mohs surgery is still the #1 option in which extremely thin layers of the lesion are carefully shaved and individually examined for the presence of cancer cells. When the physician finally reaches a layer that contains no cancer cells, the surgery is then considered completed.
Other forms of skin cancer treatments include cryosurgery, topical chemotherapy and surgical excision of the lesion. The type of treatment implemented is determined by the cancer’s location, size and stage of development. For the most serious type of skin cancer called melanoma, where DNA damage has affected pigmentation cells, treatment options are aggressive and advanced, usually involving chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and isolated limb perfusion.
Anyone can decrease their risk of developing skin cancer by using sunscreen, avoiding tanning beds, limiting time in the sun and performing routine self-examinations. For more information about detecting and identifying suspicious-looking moles or abnormal skin discolorations, contact Mayoral Dermatology to speak to one of our providers concerning questions you may have about skin cancer prevention or treatment.
(1) Rogers, H.W., Weinstock, M.A., Harris, A.R., et al. Incidence estimate of nonmelanoma skin cancer in the United States, 2006. Archives of Dermatology 2010
(2) Stern, R.S. Prevalence of a history of skin cancer in 2007: results of an incidence-based model. Archives of Dermatology 2010.
(3) The Lewen Group, Inc. The burden of skin diseases. The Society for Investigative Dermatology and The American Academy of Dermatology Association 2005.
(4) Reed K.B., Brewer J.D., Lohse C.M., Bringe K.E., Pruit C.N., Gibson L.E. Increasing Incidence of Melanoma Among Young Adults: An Epidemiological Study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2012
(5) Koh H.K., Geller A.C., Miller D.R., Grossbart T.A., Lew R.A. Prevention and early detection strategies for melanoma and skin cancer: Current status. Archives of Dermatology. 1996