We Are Sunshine

Derms Lying for Money, Story Reports

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

2010-07-13 copyDermatologists — using over-the-top “sun scare” messaging to drive patients into their offices — are removing benign moles from patients with insurance dollars, with industry-wide understanding that some derms will even lie to get a mole removed with insurance dollars, an undercover hidden-microphone investigation in The Huffington Post revealed.

Harmon Leon, an investigative reporter and regular contributor to The Huffington Post, visited dermatologists in San Francisco asking to have a benign mole removed. What he found was that many looked for ways to get insurance companies to pay for the removal of his cosmetic moles and that most derms are still preaching an over-the-top message about sunlight as a way to scare people back into their offices.

Leon also showed that dermatology’s allegations about skin cancer are based on numbers that, when put together, don’t add up.

“This past spring the Association of Health Care Journalists called into question dermatology’s math about melanoma. AHCJ reported a person’s risk of melanoma is identified at roughly two-to-three per thousand. (Whether they catch sun outdoors or in a tanning bed.) Melanoma is quite rare and it’s actually declining in most of the population, except for older men, who get it most often,” Leon wrote. “Oddly, the media marketing campaign for skin cancer prevention is aimed almost entirely at young women, who have less than a 1 in 100,000 chance of succumbing to melanoma. According to the National Cancer Institute’s data, that number has actually gone down more than 50 percent in women 20 to 49 since 1975.

He continued, “And yet, dermatology leaders regularly state that melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in women between the ages of 25 to 29 — ignoring men, the group most at risk, altogether. Is there a correlation between young women being the largest consumers of skin care products as well as being the largest demographic group scared into dermatologists’ offices to have moles removed? (And Botox injections — the fastest-growing procedure in dermatology today.) Is there a connection between dermatologists getting more press over skin cancer than heart disease or other top cancer killers that have no connection to the multibillion-dollar cosmetics industry?”

Click here to read Leon’s story.