Six percent increase urged for dermatology funding

June 1, 2005

Washington — Citing a new study that shows that skin disease "is more prevalent than anyone ever imagined," organizations representing dermatology have urged Congress to provide a 6 percent funding increase for research — more than three times the increase approved last year.

The request comes in a year when Congress and the Bush administration are faced with tough spending and against a requested increase from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of just 0.7 percent, or $196 million.

"Last year, Congress only provided NIH with a 1.9 percent funding increase for a total appropriation of $28.6 billion," the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) said in testimony submitted April 18 to the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

The statement pointed out that "At any given time, one in every three people in the United States suffers from a skin disease. The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension or cancer. The large societal and healthcare costs associated with skin diseases present a significant impact on our nation's healthcare economy. For far too long, Americans have overlooked the very real burden of skin disease."

Study to quantify The statement noted that AADA and the Society for Investigative Dermatology commissioned a study by the Lewin Group to quantify the burden of skin disease.

"This study shows that skin disease is more prevalent than anyone ever imagined - and carries serious medical and financial consequences," the statement said, explaining that the annual cost of the 21 skin diseases is estimated at just more than $37 billion, including the value of medical costs and lost productivity. The direct and indirect costs for each disease category range from $82 million for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma to $12 million for skin ulcers and wounds, according to the study.

The statement outlined for the committee major skin diseases and related advances in skin disease research:

More than 1.3 million new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Researchers are exploring whether modifications in diet and other behaviors can prevent skin cancer.

"Most exciting, however, is the recent discovery that a well-studied genetic pathway is of a gene responsible for some basal cell cancers. Now investigators can study the precise molecular and cellular changes that lead a healthy skin cell to become cancerous and can learn how to interrupt the change and thus prevent the cancers," the statement said.

More than 50,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year, more than triple the number of cases diagnosed in 1980. While the death rate for melanoma continues to be highest for older white males, melanoma is now the most common cancer among people between the ages of 25 and 29.

While advanced melanoma is almost always fatal, researchers at NIH are investigating a cell-based form of immunotherapy for stage IV melanoma that produced tumor shrinkage or disappearance in more than 50 percent of patients enrolled in an earlier study. Researchers also are studying members of families in which there are multiple cases of melanoma to identify genes and precursor conditions that may increase the likelihood of developing this disease.

"Recently, some antibiotics have become less effective because bacteria are developing resistance to them. In the past few years, research has led to promising new treatments such as the vitamin A derivatives called retinoids. Furthermore, research that is already helping to elucidate the mechanisms by which hormones control oil production may someday also provide the basis for safer and more effective treatments," the statement said.