Results from a new American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) survey indicate that despite skin cancer being the most widespread cancer in the United States, only an estimated 33% of adults are concerned about developing the disease even though approximately 70% indicate they have at least one risk factor for it.The survey also revealed that 49% are more worried about avoiding sunburn than preventing skin cancer, 32% are more worried about avoiding wrinkles than preventing skin cancer, and 25% experienced a sunburn in 2020.
In the press release, board-certified dermatologist Robert T. Brodell, MD, FAAD, professor and founding chair of the Department of Dermatology and professor of pathology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, stated, "These findings are surprising and seem to suggest that many people do not take skin cancer seriously or perhaps believe skin cancer won't happen to them. Yet, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every day."
The release also noted that, according to the CDC, although anyone can get skin cancer, certain risk factors may heighten the risk, such as having a lighter complexion; having skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; having blue or green eyes; having blonde or red hair; having more than 50 moles; and having a personal or family history of skin cancer.
The press release also indicated that research demonstrates the prevalence of skin cancer among non–Hispanic white individuals is almost 30 times greater than that among non–Hispanic black or Asian/Pacific Islander individuals. Although it is not as common among individuals with skin of color, skin cancer is still a risk. Research also indicates that skin cancer in patients with skin of color is often diagnosed at a more advanced stage, when it is more challenging to treat.
Dr. Brodell noted, "Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma. What's concerning is that invasive melanoma—melanoma that grows deeper into the skin or spreads to other parts of the body—is projected to be the fifth-most diagnosed cancer for both men and women this year. We need to make sure that everyone understands their risk for skin cancer and takes steps to prevent it as well as detect it early before it spreads. Keeping risk factors in mind, along with practicing safe sun, such as seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and applying sunscreen, is critically important."
Dr. Brodell also stressed that skin cancer is extremely treatable when caught early, so it is important to know what to look for, and that he encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams. The press release indicated that, according to the AAD's 2021 SPOT Skin Cancer survey, 32% of U.S. adults have never performed a skin self-exam.
The survey article provided helpful information about the warning signs of skin cancer and included the dermatologist-created teaching tool known as the ABCDEs of melanoma:
A is for Asymmetry: One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B is for Border: The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
C is for Color: The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.
D is for Diameter: Although melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters, or about the size of a pencil eraser, they may be smaller when diagnosed.
E is for Evolving: The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
Since this is the middle of the summer, the AAD also encourages Americans to #PracticeSafeSun to protect themselves and their families from skin cancer.
The content contained in this article is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk.
« Click here to return to Dermatology Update.