We recently came across an article posted in Dermatology Times that really resonated with us. The article, titled “ASDS Responds to Surgeon General’s Skin Cancer Prevention Call to Action” espouses the importance of bringing this national initiative into our day-to-day actions at the community level.
The article quotes dermatologist Ian Maher, M.D., assistant professor and associate director of Mohs surgery at St. Louis University:
“I think it’s up to us to be on top of the skin cancer epidemic. Right now, one in five Americans will have a skin cancer in their lifetime. It’s incumbent that we as dermatologists respond to this call to action to educate the public and to help drive policies to contribute to the skin health of our nation.”
We couldn’t agree more.
After reading this article, we felt compelled to share our own story of how those of us here at Dermatology and Skin Health have responded to this important call to action.
If you aren’t familiar with the call to action, here’s a quick synopsis.
In 2014, Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., made a pronouncement establishing skin cancer prevention as a national priority. In this call to action, he outlined five major goals aimed at combating skin cancer. These were:
1. Increase opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings.
2. Provide individuals with the information they need to make informed, healthy choices about UV exposure.
3. Promote policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer.
4. Reduce harms from indoor tanning.
5. Strengthen research, surveillance, monitoring and evaluation related to skin cancer prevention.
The aim of these goals was to extend prevention work beyond the clinic. As Dr. Maher comments in the article, “Dermatologists are good at spreading the word about the need for sun protection to their patients day in and day out, but the ASDS takes that a step further, encouraging dermatologists to take their messages to the community and to local lawmakers.”
So, let’s go ahead and look at these goals a little closer, and see how they relate to the work we’ve been doing within our organization.
Goal #1: Increasing opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings
In coordination with our non-profit Make Big Change, we have launched a program titled the “Global Sunscreen Initiative.” Through this program, we have installed dozens of sunscreen dispensers throughout the area, from Boston to Maine, to provide increased opportunities for sun protection. Strategically located in high-exposure areas such as beaches, city hall, parks, and outdoor performance venues, these dispensers are completely free to use, and are filled with our own organic, chemical-free sunscreen that is safe for use on people as young as six-months old. This program is quickly spreading, bringing increased community awareness with each dispenser that gets installed.
Goal #2: Provide individuals with the information they need to make informed, healthy choices about UV exposure
Education is a huge component of what we do here at Dermatology and Skin Health. Not only do we incorporate this into our patient’s office visits, but we are passionate about working with area schools to educate students, teachers, and nurses about the dangers of UV exposure. We understand that education starts with our youth and instilling these lessons is a vital part of this call to action’s long-term success.
Goal #3: Promoting policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer
Last year, Governor Maggie Hassan presented a proclamation at the State House in Concord to identify May as “Melanoma Awareness Month” in New Hampshire. The proclamation was originated by our non-profit Make Big Change to bring additional awareness to statewide education and prevention of skin cancer. Since NH has one of the highest rates of new skin cancer diagnoses each year, we knew it would be vital to take the lead in propelling the awareness of this disease into the daily consciousness of the citizens of our state. Beginning this spring, we are proud to say that melanoma awareness will be one major step forward to becoming a household phrase.
Goal #4: Reduce harm from indoor tanning
A major victory in the fight against the danger of indoor tanning came when the NH state senate passed house bill 136, making it illegal for New Hampshire citizens under the age of 18 to tan in tanning beds. As passionate advocates of this bill, Laurie Seavey and Michelle Roy fought diligently to help this important public policy issue become law, testifying before the state senate on behalf of Dermatology and Skin Health. Read more on this here.
Goal #5: Strengthen research, surveillance, monitoring and evaluation related to skin cancer prevention
Each May we offer a series of free skin cancer screenings at Frisbee Memorial and Douglass Wentworth hospitals. These are open to the public and we encourage anyone who may not be able to make use of our regular clinical screenings to attend.
In short, we’ve been busy.
But it’s been tremendously rewarding.
Just as this article suggests, we must act now. We must help to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. It’s critical to our wellbeing as dermatologists, and as humans.