The monthly peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Medical Association recently advocated changes to the way the nation’s melanoma screens are performed within the healthcare system, considering that there is $2.85 billion in overall lost productivity to the entire economy, in addition to the $291 million annual budget to treat the disease. The authors believe that the costs might be reduced with prevention.
“The considerable economic burden of melanoma should call attention to this disease as a national health care priority,” stated Marilyn R. Wickenheiser, BS, Jeremy S. Bordeaux, MD, MPH, and June K. Robinson, MD, on an article published on the Sept. 3 issue of JAMA Dermatology.
The authors presented data that demonstrate that only 60 percent of primary care physicians screen for skin cancer. Lack of training in identifying melanoma and uncertainty about the age when patients should begin to get screening begins, may also contribute for it.
Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, and has become one of the most common among younger people. Almost 9,000 Americans die every year with the disease, and it occurs mostly after age 50 in men. However, between 2006 and 2010, 10 percent of new cases occurred in patients with 35 to 44 years old. The burden of the disease in women is higher among the 15-to-49 age group, according to the authors, who believe that it is a consequence of a higher use of tanning beds by young women.
“We must act with urgency to stop the ever-increasing incidence of skin cancers in the United States,” said the Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lusniak, who explained that during the last three decades, the number of skin cancers have increased and is now higher than all the other cancers together in America. Lushniak had already warned about the dangers of skin tanning.
In Germany, a pilot project was conducted in which primary care physicians were trained and reimbursed for melanoma screening, as well as in referring patients with abnormal lesions for dermatologists, and the mortality rates from melanoma declined, as explained at the JAMA Dermatology article.