April 5, 2010 – O’Fallon, MO — While the dangers of sun exposure to areas of the skin that have been treated for varicose and spider veins- such as hyperpigmentation and blanching – are well established, physicians are citing a startling increase in a less known type of skin cancer as well. A recent study of the American Academy of Dermatology found that “there has been a dramatic rise in non-melanoma skin cancer among older Americans. A new study of people on Medicare found that the number of procedures to treat non-melanoma skin cancer jumped 77% over the past four years.” The growing trends in US sunbathing and tanning since the 1960’s are likely contributing factors to this staggering increase.
While the new findings about those on Medicare are troubling, the increased number of cases of skin cancer is not limited to the elderly. According to a report in the Archives of Dermatology, “there has been a 14% increase in skin cancer cases among all Americans…with more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancer cases treated in 2006 alone.” These numbers suggest the emergence of an epidemic of skin cancer while Americans still display a lack of appreciation of the dangers of prolonged sun exposure or tanning lights. Although non-melanoma skin cancer usually isn’t life-threatening if detected early, the costs to the US healthcare system are substantial. The American Academy of Dermatology has assessed that “the economic toll of both basal and squamous cell skin cancer treatments totaled more than $1.8 billion in 2004”, with costs rising each subsequent year.
Overall, physicians agree that skin cancer is a growing epidemic in the US with no end in sight until people gain a better understanding of the health risks associated with sunbathing and tanning and start taking protective measures. A March 16, 2010 study from the Archives of dermatology stated that “more people have had non-melanoma skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the last 31 years” and that “survivors of one melanoma are at least nine times more likely than the general population to develop a second melanoma.” Dr. Thomas Wright, Medical Director of the Laser Vein Center in St. Louis, Mo, has also noted increased complications of venous treatment in those who participate in tanning and sunbathing.
THOMAS WRIGHT, M.D., FACP,
Laser Lipo & Vein Center