Thursday, 31 October 2013

Clear and Present Dangers of Skin Cancer

Why you should Simply Zinc it with Sunscreen.
Photo Credit: Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation
The average consumer will likely be bored by raw statistics. However, this first post will deal with some essential numbers to illustrate why skin cancer is an important public health problem that affects most Canadians. Later information will focus Canadians and Americans on the clear and present risks from UVB-biased sunscreens and potentially harmful ingredients in personal care products.

Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer equal to 50% of all cancers in N. America. Over the past 30 years, more patients had skin cancer than the combined total of all other cancers. There are no exact figures as recording of cases is incomplete. Up to 4 million Americans and 120,000 Canadians will develop a skin cancer this year. One in six Canadians and one in five Americans will develop a skin cancer within their lifetime. More alarming, is the rising rate for all skin cancer but particularly the rate for melanoma. There has been an 8X or 800% increase in melanoma in young females and a 4-fold or 400% increase in young males over the past 30 years. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people age 15-25.

Up to 90%of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and 60% of melanoma is potentially preventable. The Lewin Group report direct and indirect costs for skin cancer care in the USA at 5.5 billion and climbing. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer Report (February 2010) estimates that we now spend more than $ 600 million annually. In Canada up to 1/4 million cases of skin cancer could cost over a $ billion by 2030.

The use of scarce health care dollars to treat a potentially preventable disease mandates a new direction. There is an effective hierarchy of skin cancer prevention. It starts with educating all people on simple sun safety behavior. Later postings will deal with this in detail. The final step in the hierarchy is the use of effective sunscreens. Australian doctors have shown that daily use of a sunscreen to exposed areas reduced the incidence of melanoma by about 50%. Their sunscreens were older formulations and new innovations with modern sunscreens bring greater promise to further reduce all types of skin cancer.

The potential of balanced sunscreens that give as much UVA protection as UVB is exciting, compared to the limitations and dangers of unbalanced UVB-biased sunscreens, with minimal UVA protection presently dominating the market in N. America. A few UV filters are able to achieve a balanced UVB to UVA protection approaching unity. More about this subject in my next post.

Denis K. Dudley, M.D.