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Surgeon General Makes Historic Skin Cancer Declaration

September 19, 2014

History was made recently, and we here at Associates in Dermatology hope that you will take heed and protect yourself and your family. For the first time in 143 years, the United States Office of the General Surgeon issued an 82-page report on the dangers of exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, declaring skin cancer an epidemic. It’s a critically important message that comes directly from our nation’s top medical advisor.

In this detailed call to action the Surgeon General provides valuable information and statistics. He also reaches out to individuals, clinicians, communities and schools as well as outdoor workers, providing tailored plans of action to better protect themselves and their families, students and patients from the potential dangers of sun exposure.

Prompting the Surgeon General’s move is quantifying data that indicates a 200-percent increase in the incidence of skin cancer in the US since the 1970s. Skin cancer today is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in the US, with upward of 5 million Americans being treated for the disease each year. Melanoma alone, the leading cause of skin cancer, claims the lives of some 9,000 people annually.

These statistics are all the more heartbreaking when you consider that most cases of skin cancer are easily preventable, says Dr. Michael Steppie, MD of Central Florida’s Associates in Dermatology. With extensive experience in treating skin cancer, Dr. Steppie is seeing firsthand the evidence that has the Surgeon General concerned, including rising rates of the disease among Florida’s Hispanic and African American populations.

Many believe that skin cancer affects only those with lighter complexions. They couldn’t be more wrong, and this misconception is proving dangerous. The fact is that from 1992 to 2008, melanoma cases among Hispanics living in the US rose by nearly 20 percent and the disease is increasingly being diagnosed in Hispanics at younger ages and at later, deadlier stages. Here in sunny Florida, where the near year-round warm temperatures mean many days in sun, skin cancer is an even greater risk for the growing Hispanic population. A recent study of melanoma cases reported in Dade County alone shows that late-stage melanoma diagnoses are more common in Hispanic patients (26 percent) and African American patients (52 percent) than in non-Hispanic white patients (16 percent).

We here at Associates in Dermatology join the Surgeon General’s call to action by encouraging all Floridians of any ethnicity to realize the dangers of exposure to the sun’s UV rays and the risk of skin cancer. This nefarious disease can hit anyone, no matter your skin tone or complexion. Be proactive about protecting yourself by wearing protective clothing; by using a high-SPF sunblock that ideally is free of chemical sun filters, like Steppie MD Infinity UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+ (available in tube and spray versions); and by scheduling regular skin cancer screenings at one of Associates in Dermatology’s 12 Central Florida locations.

Visit the Surgeon General’s online library to read the full report titled The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.

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