Even the Good Guys are Confused!

Great op/ed piece today in NY Times by Timothy Egan titled

“What to Be Afraid Of”                      http://nyti.ms/1IozE3a

Only one problem:  Timothy threw out an anecdotal fear-mongering medical myth himself!

He rightly points out that terrorism kills few people compared to most any other risk, but then states.

“Consider the various threats to life. The sun, for starters. The incidence of melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer, has doubled in the last 30 years. More than 9,000 Americans now die every year from this common cancer. I also lost a friend — 30 years old, father of two — to malignant melanoma.”

To quote Vizzini  “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”

(And then me)  “the second, only slightly less well known, is to confuse INCIDENCE with MORTALITY.

Egan then goes on to throw in a sad, but totally inappropriate anecdotal report of a young friend of his dying. Classic scare tactics/fear mongering.  Shame on you Timothy!

We have started screening EVERYBODY for skin cancer.  Lot’s of dermatologists have nice boats.  The INCIDENCE of melanoma has skyrocketed, but the death rate hasn’t changed.  The CDC just published an M&M on the topic.

Click to access mm64e0602.pdf

Here’s the conclusion quote in a nutshell:   “From 1982 to 2011, melanoma incidence rates increased while mortality rates remained constant ”

Melanoma Incidence vs Mortality

Melanoma Incidence vs Mortality

I don’t know why the incidence of melanoma is going up but the death rates are not.  Certainly we doctors would like to claim that it’s because we’re saving so many lives after we find the melanoma but I’m simply not sure.  Are we causing more harm than good by keeping kids out of the sun?  Are women getting osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency because they are afraid of the sun?  Lot’s to think about but know this; your chance of DYING from melanoma hasn’t increased.  You are more likely to die from lots of other things.


Dr. Nick