By Marta Van Beek, MD
Earlier this month, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a request for comment seeking information about ways to prevent skin cancer by reducing UV exposure. The CDC will use the information it collects to work with the Office of the Surgeon General as they begin to formulate a plan to better address an issue we battle every day: The public health problem of skin cancer.
The CDC is focused on receiving comments from key stakeholders, such as your Academy, regarding barriers that we face in our fight to reduce our patients’ UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning devices.
Additionally, they are looking to our Academy to recommend evidence-based strategies to change current behaviors and work toward increasing sun-protection behaviors. Consistent with the goals of the SPOT Skin Cancer program, your Academy will continue to work with the public health service to amplify the message that we have been giving our patients and communities for years: Early skin cancer detection and prevention save lives.
We can look to the regulation of the tobacco industry as proof that our contributions to this type of comment period can make a big difference in the public’s attitude toward indoor tanning and UV exposure.
We can look to the regulation of the tobacco industry as proof that our contributions to this type of comment period can make a big difference in the public’s attitude toward indoor tanning and UV exposure. As a result of the CDC working with the Surgeon General on its anti-smoking messaging and campaigns, there have been sweeping changes in the way the public views cigarette smoking.
Today, the Surgeon General’s official fact sheet states that, “There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke — even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke — is harmful.” A position that is just as powerful as this one that warns against UV exposure has the potential to change millions of patients’ beliefs and behaviors.
We know that the 3.7 million cases of basal and squamous cell carcinomas, and 60,000 cases of melanoma diagnosed annually in this country are largely preventable if we can reach people early in their lives and get them to change their habits.
The group that is most vulnerable is our young people, especially where melanoma is concerned. I know we all work on a daily basis to convey healthy UV-protection habits to our young patients, and as frustrating as it may be, sometimes the message just doesn’t get through. Working with the CDC and the Office of the Surgeon General may be what it takes to further turn the tide of public opinion, much like it did with tobacco.
The AADA will be submitting a comment letter highlighting current barriers to skin cancer prevention activities and will offer strategies to overcome these barriers. Additionally, your AADA will continue to serve as a resource for the CDC and Office of the Surgeon General as they work together to pursue a Surgeon General publication. By contributing to this effort, we have the potential to save lives.
Dr. Van Beek is clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and chair of the AADA Council on Government Affairs, Health Policy, and Practice.
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