Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Non-melanoma skin cancer cases increasing.

The CBS Evening News (3/15, story 6, 0:20, Couric) reported that "there has been a dramatic rise of certain types of skin cancer in older Americans. A new study of people on Medicare found that in just four years the number of procedures to treat non-melanoma skin cancers jumped about 77%. Researchers say the rise of sunbathing and tanning after World War II may have contributed to the increase."

Bloomberg News (3/16, Ostrow) reports, "The number of Americans treated for non-melanoma skin cancer increased 14.3 percent from 2002 to 2006, according to" a study published March 16 in the Archives of Dermatology. In 2006 alone, researchers "estimated there were more than 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers in the US...and about 2.1 million people were treated for the malignancy that year." In a March 12 interview, dermatologist and study author Howard Rogers, MD, PhD, stated, "There's an epidemic of skin cancer," which he attributed to a continued "lack of appreciation of the danger of going out in the sun."

The Los Angeles Times (3/15, Kaplan) "Booster Shots" blog reported that even though non-melanoma skin cancer "usually isn't deadly if found early," the economic toll of both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer is "still significant. The American Academy of Dermatology says that treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer cost $1.5 billion in 2004."

HealthDay (3/15, Goodwin) reported that in another study published March 16 in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers "developed a mathematical model to estimate the prevalence of non-melanoma skin cancer in the United States." They discovered that "more people have had non-melanoma skin cancer than all other cancers combined over the last 31 years." And, "in a third paper in the same journal, researchers from the US National Cancer Institute found survivors of one melanoma are about nine times as likely as the general population to develop a second melanoma."

Patients may struggle to articulate how it feels to have cancer. The New York Times (3/15, Jennings) "Well" blog reported, "As a patient, it's hard to articulate how being seriously ill feels." Although "we like to say that people 'fight' cancer because we wrestle fearfully with the notion of ever having the disease," in reality, "ordinary language falls far short of explaining" the "keen sense of oblivion" that patients feel "once infested by the black dust of cancer and damaged by the 'friendly fire' of treatment." In fact, "words can just be inadequate," and people "often reach for the nearest rotted-out cliché for support." It may be "better," therefore, "to say nothing, and offer the gift of your presence."

Adolescents with cancer said to face unique challenges with treatment. On the front of its Science Times section, the New York Times (3/16, D1, Rabin) reports that teenagers are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer "much later in the course of their illness than younger children," because "they tend not to ask adults for help or confide about embarrassing physical changes." Dr. W. Archie Bleyer, "an expert on cancer in teenagers" at the St. Charles Medical Center in Oregon, noted that "teenagers fall into a cancer gap." While adolescents have "not benefited from the huge advances in survival made by younger children," they also "tend to develop a very different set of cancers from older adults." Researchers have made some breakthroughs, however, with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, finding that teenagers under the care of pediatric oncologists fared "remarkably better" than "those treated by adult cancer doctors."