Doctor reports skin cancer diagnoses ‘significantly up’, calls for skin exams – GNT NEWS

A Chicago-area doctor has warned of a rise in skin cancer diagnoses in recent months as she urged people to get routine skin checks, with early detection the key to survival rates.

dr. Amy Derick, a dermatologist and medical director of Derick Dermatology, said diagnoses of melanoma and other skin cancers have “increased significantly” this year.

“People haven’t come in as much for routine care for anything, whether it’s skin cancer screenings or mammograms or anything that could be delayed, or thought it could be delayed, until now,” Derick told GNT NEWS in interview this week. “We’re seeing patients feel safe coming forward and … our melanoma numbers have gone up significantly in the last six months.”

Derick noted that delaying routine checkups can be detrimental to the outcomes of such diagnoses.

“I think this is such an important thing to consider that, you know, melanoma is a form of skin cancer and when it’s caught early, it’s curable — 99% curable,” she said. “And… if we can find melanoma early, your chances of survival [are] a lot more. And that’s why it’s very important that people take care of their skin and don’t delay such services.”

According to American Academy of Dermatologyskin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, with melanoma rates “rising rapidly over the past 30 years.”

Here’s what you should know:

Who is most at risk?

Derick said that while older patients make up the majority of skin cancer diagnoses, younger patients should also be screened because diagnoses in those age groups may see outcomes that are “not always as good.”

The AAD reports that melanoma will affect one in 27 men and one in 40 women in their lifetime. Younger age groups have more diagnoses in women than men, while those over 50 have higher rates in men. The largest increase in cases is recorded in people over 80 years old.

According to American Cancer Society, the average age of melanoma diagnosis is 65, but “melanoma is not uncommon even among those under 30.” In fact, the agency notes that it is one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women.

Invasive melanoma is expected to be the fifth most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in 2022, according to the association.

Derick also noted that fair-skinned people are more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer “because the skin is protected from the sun by pigment, and people who have less pigment are less protected from the sun.” But she added that darker-skinned patients who develop skin cancers like melanoma are often diagnosed at a later stage.

“So patients with darker skin have a lower survival rate than patients with lighter skin. And so, if you have dark skin, it’s important to also take good care of your body, your moles, and your freckles. And also to be aware that sun protection is useful in the prevention of skin cancer.”

Women may also notice skin changes during pregnancy.

“Just like you get melasma on your face or that dark line on your belly, it’s because the cells that make pigment in those places are stimulated by estrogen and so they’re more active during pregnancy,” Derick said, adding that “these are the same cells that become cancerous in melanoma.”

Early detection is even more important for pregnant women, she said.

“We’ve seen patients come in for melanoma during pregnancy, and it’s important to catch it early because if you do, you can cut it out while you’re pregnant with very little risk to the mother or the child,” Derrick said. “But if it’s to the point where it metastasizes or requires certain treatments, it’s difficult to treat it well while the patient is pregnant.”

What are the types of skin cancer?

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancer and are highly curable if detected early enough and subjected to appropriate treatment, according to AAD.

The American Cancer Society reports that such cancers are most commonly found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms.

Most skin cancer deaths, however, come from melanoma, which is less common but more likely to grow and spread.

The American Cancer Society reports that although melanoma accounts for approximately 1% of skin cancer diagnoses, it causes the majority of skin cancer deaths. In 2022 alone, it is estimated that 7,650 people will die from melanoma, of which slightly more than 5,000 will be men and more than 2,500 women.

While the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% if it is diagnosed before it has spread to the lymph nodes, that number drops to 68% once it has spread to the lymph nodes, the AAD reports. If it reaches other organs and even further lymph nodes, the number reaches only 30%.

“The survival rate for a cancer like melanoma depends on when it’s caught,” Derick said. “And … people who get screened for skin cancer are more likely to find skin cancer at an earlier stage than people who don’t. There are studies that show that, and there are studies that show that if you catch something early, it is less likely to kill you.”

How often should you examine your skin?

According to Derick, the answer depends on a number of factors. Some things to consider include age, sun exposure, whether or not someone is immunocompromised, family history, and more.

“I think it’s based on individual risk factors. And that’s why it would be wise to go to a dermatologist’s office to discuss this with each individual,” she said. “It depends on your age, you know, your sun damage or cumulative sun damage. People who are immunosuppressed or have a weakened immune system are more likely to get skin cancer and people who have a lot of moles or … if you’ve had cancer before skin, you’re much more likely to get another skin cancer. And if you’ve gotten another skin cancer like basal cell, you’re more likely to get melanoma.”

What should you be looking for?

Experts say it’s important to look for changes or growths anywhere on the skin.

“Cancers grow and change, and changing lesions is probably the biggest risk factor for something to look at, something that’s asymmetric and that’s very dark, something that’s out of the blue and something that’s symptomatic bleeding or, you know, it’s just you itchy all the time or something like that — things like that are important for you to take more seriously,” Derick said.

She added that skin cancer, especially melanoma, can develop even in areas that are not often exposed to the sun.

Here’s what the American Cancer Society says you should look for in each type of skin cancer:

Basal Cell

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish spots that may itch
  • Small, pink or red, clear, shiny, pearly bumps, which may have blue, brown, or black surfaces
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in the middle, which may contain abnormal blood vessels that spread like the spokes of a wheel
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that do not heal, or that heal and then come back
  • Basal cell carcinoma is often fragile and may bleed after shaving or after a minor injury. Sometimes people go to the doctor because they have a sore or razor cut that just won’t heal, and it turns out to be basal cell carcinoma. A simple rule of thumb is that most shaving cuts will heal within a week.

Squamous Cell

  • Rough or scaly red spots, which may crust over or bleed
  • Raised growths or nodules, sometimes with a lower part in the middle
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that do not heal, or that heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths


  • The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that changes size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all the other spots on your skin (known as the ugly duckling sign).
  • The ABCDE rule is another guide to common signs of melanoma. Be alert and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following characteristics:
    • A is for asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
    • B is for border: Edges are irregular, jagged, jagged, or blurred.
    • C is for color: The color is not the same everywhere and can include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with spots of pink, red, white or blue.
    • D is for diameter: A spot is larger than 6 millimeters in diameter (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
    • E is for development: The mole changes in size, shape or color.
  • A wound that won’t heal
  • The spread of pigment from the border of the spot into the surrounding skin
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • A change in sensation, such as itching, tenderness, or pain
  • A change in the surface of the mole – scaling, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or lump

What other preventive measures can you take?

While routine checkups and wearing sunscreen are key to protection, there are some other preventative measures people can take, experts say.

“While sunscreen works well, it’s not as good as trying to avoid going out in the sun unprotected,” Derick said. “That’s why we recommend some protective clothing because it’s easier. It’s easy for kids to do, too. If you get sunburned, even once, it can increase your risk of skin cancer.”

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