HemOnc Today New York
HemOnc Today New York
April 13, 2015
2 min read

Speaker emphasizes public awareness in Surgeon General's call to prevent skin cancer

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NEW YORK — Working with the public to create behavioral change with the goal of decreasing the number of melanomas in the United States was the focus of a presentation here.

During the HemOnc Today Melanoma and Cutaneous Malignancies meeting, Richard R. Winkelmann, DO, a National Society of Cutaneous Medicine Melanoma clinical research fellow, presented information from the 2014 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.

In 2015, it is estimated there will be approximately 73,870 cases of invasive melanoma and 66,100 cases of it-situ melanoma, Winkelmann reported, meaning one in 24 Americans has a lifetime risk of invasive or in-situ melanoma.

Rapid increases of melanoma have been seen particularly in young, white women (a 3.8% annual increase), likely due to the use of tanning beds, and in white men older than 65 years of age (an 8.8% annual increase), likely due to sun exposure, according to 2011 figures from the Journal of National Cancer Institute, Winkelmann said.

More than one American dies of melanoma every hour, according to Winkelmann.

“Early diagnosis is absolutely paramount to survival,” he said.

On July 28, 2014, Deputy Surgeon General Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, MD, MPH, as acting Surgeon General, issued a call to action to prevent skin cancer. Lushniak, a board-certified dermatologist, issued five goals for government, public and private practice organizations, health care providers and individuals to raise awareness of skin protection policies.

Lushniak’s call to action focused on primary prevention, trying to create behavioral changes among the general public in an effort to decrease the number of melanomas entering the pipeline, according to Winkelmann.

The call to action goals include:

  • increasing opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings;
  • providing individuals with information needed to make informed, healthy choices about UV exposure, including supporting skin cancer prevention education in schools;
  • promoting policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer and incorporating sun safety into workplace polices;
  • reducing harms from indoor tanning; and
  • strengthening research, surveillance, monitoring and evaluation related to skin cancer prevention.

According to Winkelmann, the call to action could have a significant longer-term impact beyond than the success of initial media reports in July. He referenced the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which identified smoking as a cause of lung cancer and was listed as one of “10 Greatest Public Health Achievements” in the United State from 1900 to 1999 in MMWR.

As a result of the 1964 call to action, policies were initiated that vastly changed how society viewed smoking, Winkelmann said.

“In summary, the Surgeon General has issued a call to action against skin cancer,” Winkelmann said. “He has emphasized the need to act with urgency to stop the ever-increasing incidence of skin cancer in the United States. We have a model for success in the anti-smoking intervention. Because we are at the forefront of treating patients with melanoma, the onus is on us to ensure the public gets the information they need.” – by Bruce Thiel


Winkelmann RR. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Presented at: HemOnc Today Melanoma and Cutaneous Malignancies. April 10-11, 2015; New York.

MMWR. 1999;48(12):241-243.

Disclosure: Winkelmann reports no relevant financial disclosures.