Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The WHO weighs in on the sun/skin cancer connection

There's been some debate in recent years about how much of an impact sun exposure has on melanoma. The World Heath Organization (WHO) reports recently however that the sun kills around 60,000 people a year, mostly from melanoma.


The WHO Press Release
The WHO Fact Sheet
Download the flyer
Download the full report

From Reuters:

As many as 60,000 people a year die from too much sun, mostly from malignant skin cancer, the World Health Organization reported on Wednesday.

It found that 48,000 deaths every year are caused by malignant melanomas, and 12,000 by other kinds of skin cancer. About 90 percent of such cancers are caused by ultraviolet light from the sun.

Radiation from the sun also causes often serious sunburn, skin aging, eye cataracts, pterygium -- a fleshy growth on the surface of the eye, cold sores and other ills, according to the report, the first to detail the global effects of sun exposure.

"We all need some sun, but too much sun can be dangerous -- and even deadly. Fortunately, diseases from UV such as malignant melanomas, other skin cancers and cataracts are almost entirely preventable through simple protective measures," Dr. Maria Neira, Director for Public Health and the Environment at WHO, said in a statement.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dermatologists don't get no respect

I mentioned this last summer and it's still true. If you finally decide to make an appointment with a dermatologist to get a mole checked, be prepared to wait as long as a month. You know you've already put it off long enough, don't you?

I had what I thought was a mole on the side of my head, above my right-eye. My wife mentioned to me that it looked like it had gotten a little larger recently. I knew it was nothing, but as a contributor to this blog I would have felt a bit hypocritical not having it checked out.

So I called and made the next available appointment which was in three weeks. I went to the appointment and the doctor was about 30 minutes late which wasn't a big deal because I had already waited three weeks and they don't call them "waiting rooms" for nothing.

There was a trophy wife (e.g. skinny thirty-something blonde, with brow-beaten husband etc.) in the waiting room with me and after a few minutes she began asking the receptionist where the doctor was because she'd been waiting for 20 minutes. The receptionist explained the situation to her (doctor can't predict the length of each visit, etc.) and said she'd check with the doctor. Trophy wife then began complaining that her time was "just as valuable as his" and that she had things she needed to get done after the appointment.

I never think about this stuff at the time, but what I should have said to trophy wife was that unless she was going to be potentially saving lives the rest of the afternoon, that no, her time was *not* as important as the doctor's.

I'm fairly confident that had she been seeing a cardiologist about her husband's ticker or any type of surgeon that she would have not thought to say "my time is just as valuable as his." So my point is that although dermatologists deal with life threatening conditions just like any other doctor, I don't think they get the respect they deserve.

Dermatologists save lives. All the time. They're not just here to remove warts and help your skin look younger

Anyway, the outcome of my visit was that the thing on the side of my head wasn't a mole but a seborrheic keratoses which are just benign skin growths. It wasn't bothering me any but he froze it off anyway.

He checked-out the rest of my body and we did find what looks to be a slightly out of the ordinary mole which he did a biopsy on (it met one of the A-B-C-D factors).

He did mention that most of the men he sees in his practice were told to come in by their wife. And he just recently diagnosed a stage one melanoma on a male patient who came in to get checked because his wife spotted it.

So if someone who knows you very well mentions that they see a change in one of your moles, what have you got to lose by getting it checked out? If it is a cancerous mole, the sooner it gets checked-out the better.