We Are Sunshine

Derm: BCC and SCC are Not Real Cancer

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Basal cell and squamous cell “cancers” should no longer be called “skin cancer” because they are almost always completely benign lesions, says a published British dermatology professor who is leading the charge against over-the-top sun scare programs.

2010-08-16 Dermatologist copy“What they don’t explain is that almost all of these so-called skin ‘cancers’ don’t spread or kill; in fact, they are not really cancers at all,” Dr. Sam Shuster of Newcastle University wrote in an essay in the London Daily Mail last week. “Instead, these mild forms of skin cancer — what doctors call basal cell and squamous carcinomas — are benign tumours, something quite different. Calling them ‘cancer’ was a wretched historical error and this incorrect name should be abandoned before more people are hurt by it.”

Shuster says telling people to avoid the sun is hurting more people than it’s helping, especially in light-deprived northern climates.

Shuster was a lead author on a peer-reviewed study in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2009 called “The Melanoma Epidemic: A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that showed that melanoma incidence is not really increasing, but rather doctors are diagnosing more 100 percent curable “thin” lesions that didn’t used to be called melanomas. Thicker lesions are not increasing and mortality is not increasing, the study showed.

That’s why Shuster and others in the British dermatology community are calling for a revision of sun scare public messages ­ particularly in light of the fact that the sun¹s role in natural vitamin D production is underappreciated in public health campaigns. He calls the melanoma hysteria “propaganda” and “a terrible mistake.”

“If all this miserable propaganda has got you scared and worried, you shouldn’t be. Because the evidence is that the message promoted by the anti-sun brigade isn’t true,” Shuster wrote in The Daily Mail editorial. “Indeed, the great sun scare that would drive us to live our summers in darkness is just a myth that’s grown from a bad piece of medical science.”

He continued, “The big mistake was that the idea that sun exposure causes melanoma went public before it was proved. In fact, we don’t know what causes melanoma. The melanoma scare is just as phony as the other sun-scare stories. According to the scaremongers, there has been a great increase in these ‘melanomas’ in recent years, supposedly caused by the sun. The puzzle has been why this has not been accompanied by the expected increase in deaths from them. We now know the reason is that they aren’t really melanomas at all: it’s all a horrible mistake.”

The origin of the mistake, according to Shuster: “The mistake happened because sunlight makes moles grow, and in pale-skinned people this often gets mistaken for true melanoma. This kind of misdiagnosis, which began in sunny Australia, soon spread to feed the phony melanoma epidemic elsewhere. And it continued because of fear of litigation if the real thing was missed in the doctor’s surgery, and because screening programs artificially increase false-positive diagnoses.”

To read the story click here.