The ASDS, AAD, and other dermatology societies offer a wide variety of resources and programs that dermatologists can implement and get involved in to prevent skin cancer in their communities.
Then Acting and now Deputy Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., a dermatologist, established skin cancer prevention as a national priority in 2014, setting five goals for combatting skin cancer in America.
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) announced in August 2015 that it not only supports the government’s five goals to combat skin cancer, but also has specific initiatives that will help reach those goals.
Ian A. Maher, M.D.“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 projected that in another 20 years, it’s going to be one in three Americans,” says Ian A. Maher, M.D., assistant professor and associate director of Mohs surgery and cutaneous oncology, department of dermatology, St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo.
“I think it’s incumbent that we as dermatologists respond to this call to action in our efforts to educate the public about skin cancer prevention and help drive our policies to contribute to the skin health of our nation,” he says.
The government’s Call to Action sets goals for increasing sun protection and educating the public about the dangers of UV exposure, as well as for promoting legislation aligned with skin cancer prevention, reducing indoor tanning and fueling skin cancer prevention research, monitoring and evaluation.
Dr. Maher, chair of the ASDS public service committee, says 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 local lawmakers.
“We’ve worked hard to centralize everything on the [ASDS] website, so materials are easy to find. Our programs and resources are easy to access for any dermatologists who are interested in taking their skin cancer prevention efforts that next step, outside their office,” says Dr. Mahar.
ASDS offers ready-made programs that dermatologists can implement in their communities.
One is Choose Skin Health, which is a partnership with Neutrogena that focuses on offering free skin cancer screenings and educational materials. Dermatologists can volunteer to give the free screenings on ASDS’s website. In turn, ASDS sends those dermatologists skin cancer screening forms and sunscreen samples to hand out to consumers who attend. ASDS promotes the program in national and regional publications, and the society is having a competition for the ASDS member who does the most screening in his or her geographic area. In its fifth year, the program has resulted in nearly 15,000 skin cancer screenings.
“We have a program called Sun Safe Soccer which helps educate soccer coaches about skin cancer basics … and encourages them to pass that knowledge on to their players,” Dr. Maher says.
Still another ASDS outreach program is Sun Safe Surfing, which offers easy-to-remember sun protection tips for surfers, as well as screenings and other events. In 2013, Sun Safe Surfing teamed up with the Colette Coyne Foundation for a skin cancer screening on the Jones Beach boardwalk in New York, where dermatologists screened more than 220 people. The program also sponsors surf camps.
There are other opportunities to make a difference. For example, dermatologists and others might not know this, but some schools ban students from applying, carrying and storing sunscreen at schools. Dr. Maher says it’s often a liability issue, but since it’s usually school or district policy, it is something that dermatologists and others can work to change on a local level. Dr. Maher went to his children’s school to change the policy and said some schools are willing to change; some are not.
NEXT: Banning indoor tanning
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Association (ASDSA), the advocacy group for ASDS, is behind lobbying efforts for legislation to ban indoor tanning for minors. The ASDSA also supports required posting of health risks for tanners.
A tool that could be useful for dermatologists who want to get in on the fight to ban indoor tanning is the ASDSA’s position statement about the dangers of indoor tanning.
Indoor tanning is an issue that’s normally regulated at the state level, according to Dr. Maher.
“We have been active in working with states and supporting state dermatology societies, which are normally the ones that are taking on the tanning legislation,” Dr. Maher says.
Dermatologists can contact ASDSA to find out about specific lobbying opportunities to ban indoor tanning in their states, according to Dr. Maher.
Ramona Behshad, M.D.Lobbying and talking with legislators is important but isn’t necessarily something that dermatologists feel comfortable doing, according to Ramona Behshad, M.D., who is an adjunct assistant professor of dermatology, St. Louis University, and practices in Chesterfield, Mo. She recommends that dermatologists who are interested in lobbying for and against laws in their states and nationally should attend ASDS and AAD meetings, which often offer education in this area.
There are other options for learning, Dr. Behshad says. She advocates joining state medical societies, where dermatologists can join other medical specialties to influence the laws being passed.
“Our state medical association, at least once a year, has a full weekend, where you can learn how to advocate and learn what’s involved when you call your senator,” says Dr. Behshad.
NEXT: Consensus statement helps to further the cause
Last May, ASDS released its first consensus recommendations for the treatment and management of basal cell carcinoma. The release of the recommendations not only helps to standardize evidence-based practice in the specialty, but also shows legislators and the public that there is a concerted effort to effectively and efficiently treat and manage this common skin cancer.
“These types of consensus statements are needed now because there is an increase in regulation in healthcare, and we need to have well-defined standards of practice that are based on evidence,” Dr. Maher says.
Dr. Behshad knows the power of advocacy. She started the Stylists against Skin Cancer program through ASDS’s Future Leaders Network. Like Sun Safe Surfing and Sun Safe Soccer, Stylists against Skin Cancer is a turnkey program. Dermatologists go to local beauty schools and teach future stylists the basics of how to determine if something they see on the scalp should result in a referral to a dermatologist. ASDS has continued to expand the program, which includes a ready-made lecture and educational materials for dermatologists to distribute to those who attend the lectures. These items and more are available for download at the ASDS website.
Dr. Behshad has given the lecture at her community’s beauty schools and says the stylists are hungry for the information. They also learn more skin cancer and how to detect it early, as well as build relationships with local dermatologists.
“We came up with a referral card, so that the hair stylists could have a diagram on which they mark an x on the scalp. On the backside, there a ‘find a dermatologist’ website,” Dr. Behshad says. “Projects like this are a great way to get into the community and, pretty quickly, you’ll become the expert in the community. I think projects like this by the ASDS are very easy for any dermatologist. The work is already done.”
ASDS is not alone in offering programs that dermatologists can implement and get involved in to prevent skin cancer in their communities. The AAD, state dermatology societies and medical societies offer resources, too. The goal is for dermatologists to find programs that work for them, so they get involved in local, regional and national efforts to prevent skin cancer, according to Dr. Maher.
According to ASDS, the Call to Action includes these five goals aimed at combating skin cancer:
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.
For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services web page on the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.
For more information:
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery: www.asds.net
Choose Skin Health: http://www.asds.net/SkinCancerVolunteers/
Sun Safe Soccer: http://www.asds.net/Sun-Safe-Soccer/