National Consumers League

Skin cancer on the rise


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By Mimi Johnson, Director of NCL Health Policy It does not matter that I have never smoked, nor that I have been a vegetarian for the majority of my life. It does not matter that I am physically active. It does not even matter much that I practice sun smarts. I am cursed with fair skin and, no matter how hard I try to prevent it, I am still at high risk for developing skin cancer. In fact, by age 25 I had my first spot removed. This is one of many reasons I am grateful for health reform; no longer must I worry that my fair skin might prevent me from obtaining – or keeping – health insurance. Better yet, my preventive skin screenings will no longer break the bank. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and its “popularity” continues to rise. Millions of new cases are reported each year, rising 4.2 percent each year from 1992 to 2006 – or DOUBLING over 14 years. Still, researchers believe there are many more cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year that don’t get reported. While these rates are high, and experts anticipate they will rise at an even faster pace in the coming years, non-melanoma skin cancer – either basal or squamous cell – are rarely fatal and largely treatable. If left untreated, squamous cell skin cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Whether you tan or burn, we are all at risk of developing skin cancer, and it is important we take steps to prevent it.