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Melanoma Increase Is Real

Study Shows Rise in Melanoma Isn't Just Due to Better Screening

Melanoma Study: Second Opinion

While the new findings probably won't lay to rest the debate in the scientific community about whether the rise in melanoma cases is a true epidemic, the findings do show a true rise in melanoma, agrees Steven Wang, MD, director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and a member of The Skin Cancer Foundation's Photobiology Committee.

"There is no debate about the rising incidence of melanoma," he says. "We should turn this around and focus on the more important questions." Those include finding better treatments for advanced melanoma, he tells WebMD. Finding tumors earlier is a good thing, he adds. "It can avoid [the need for] aggressive surgery, for instance."

"They showed the thicker tumors, which are much less likely to be incorrectly diagnosed as melanoma, increased as well," says Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology and community health at Brown University and chairman of the American Cancer Society Skin Cancer Advisory Committee. "That is probably the single most important observation they made, because it does suggest that indeed the increase in incidence is real as opposed to an artifact of early detection activity.''

The emphasis, agrees Cockburn, should shift from the current debate. What's important is finding out why the incidence isn't declining and emphasizing the need to get screened. "Screening is really important," he says "You should ask your doctor for a skin exam."

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone perform a self-exam once a month, consulting a dermatologist if they find worrisome symptoms, and get a skin exam from a dermatologist yearly.

Limiting sunlight exposure, wearing sunscreen, and wearing protective clothing including a hat are recommended by the American Cancer Society.

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