Is the purported increase in melanoma a fraud?
In the last post, I made a case that sunlight does not cause melanoma, and that if Melanoma is increasing, as stated by the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF), it is doing so while sunlight exposure is decreasing. But suppose that the increase in melanoma is not an increase at all? Some believe that there is no proliferation of melanoma, but only a proliferation of dermatologists, and a proliferation of diagnoses of skin spots as being melanoma by some dermatologists in an attempt to make more money. An article by Harmon Leon, writing for the Huffington Post, served as a reminder of the potential for fraud among (unscrupulous) dermatologists. I strongly suggest you read that article. I am indebted to Mr. Leon for a few of the points made in this post.
I do not mean to suggest that all dermatologists are dishonest. Many of the facts that I gather are derived from research performed by dermatologists who are trying to awaken the public to the fraudulent actions of some members of their profession.
Those who profit from scare tactics regarding melanoma I call The Powers of Darkness. They have frightened us away from the sunlight, or as Dr. Michael Holick (an honest dermatologist) says, “scared the daylights out of us to scare us out of the daylight.” The consequence is widespread vitamin D deficiency that has led to millions of cases of death and disability.
Dr. Arthur Rhodes, a dermatologist, wrote in a 2003 editorial for an independent dermatology newspaper that melanoma’s public message—that sunlight was the sole cause of melanoma—was causing death among patients and medical professionals alike. In it he suggested that many people were not taking care of melanomas that occurred in areas of little or no sunlight exposure; this was because they assumed that only sunlight could cause melanoma. The following are some of the examples that he gathered from his experience with this most deadly of skin cancers:
1. A dermatology trainee died of melanoma at age 28. He watched a mole change in his armpit for years, but because that area never received UV light, he assumed it was not melanoma and delayed seeking help.
2. A 40-year-old woman had a sore on the bottom of her heel and believing only sunlight caused melanoma, she had no idea that it was melanoma. She died three years later.
3. A Harvard-trained lung specialist ignored a sore on his upper back. He and his fiancée, a Harvard-trained pediatric resident, observed the change for several years without having it examined. They didn’t know that melanoma could occur in an area that never received sunlight. He died six months after diagnosis at age 29.
Here is a quote from this enlightened dermatologist:
“If a medical resident can misinterpret public health messages about sun exposure and melanoma, and two Harvard-trained physicians were ignorant about the most important risk factors for developing melanoma, then the general public will tend to make the same potentially fatal mistakes. Those mistakes lead to delayed diagnosis of this potentially lethal cancer—particularly when we pound out the message that the culprit in melanoma is sun, sun, sun, and we are not sufficiently emphasizing the most important risk factors for developing melanoma.”
Dr. Rhodes states that “melanoma is a heterogeneous disease with multiple causes, arising from potential precursor moles that have little or nothing to do with sun exposure [emphasis mine], including dysplastic nevi, congenital nevi, and abnormal moles on acral surfaces and mucous membranes.”
Another celebrated dermatologist, Dr. Bernard Ackerman, wrote a meticulously documented 440 page monograph called The Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth. In it he presents nearly every piece of research regarding sunlight and melanoma up until 2008, and concludes that the purported "epidemic" of sunlight-caused melanoma is a myth.
I agree with these dermatologists. The “epidemic” of melanoma is a myth, and dermatologists themselves are paying a price. Their own sunlight avoidance is causing widespread vitamin D deficiency among members of their profession. Australian dermatologists, while living in one of the sunniest areas of the world, have an average blood-vitamin D level of only 13 ng/ml—a level considered to be severely deficient. At least this group is following their own advice to avoid the sun. As you will see, not all dermatologists are following their own advice—especially those in the USA.
There are still other dermatologists who refuse to sing in the official choir of the Powers of Darkness. Writing in the British Medical Journal in 2008, Dr. Sam Shuster argued that the purported increase in melanoma is not really an increase at all, but an artifact due to non-melanoma lesions being diagnosed as melanoma. In 2009, another study by dermatologists— Dr. Nick Levell and his colleagues, including Shuster—this time published by the British Journal of Dermatology, came to a similar conclusion and called the “increase” in melanoma a “midsummer night’s dream.” They concluded, after tracking the reported increase in Melanoma in the Eastern region of the UK between 1991 and 2004, that benign lesions were being classified in increasing numbers as stage-one melanoma. No other stages of the disease increased, and the increase in mortality due to melanoma was either miniscule or non-existent. This was true even though all grades of tumors were diagnosed at first presentation. They also noted that “the distribution of the lesions reported did not correspond to the sites of lesions caused by solar exposure,”—in other words, the “cancers” were occurring on areas of the body seldom exposed to sunlight. Levell and his group also say that “the large increase in reported incidence is likely to be due to diagnostic drift which classifies benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma.”
They further stated that “These findings inevitably challenge the validity of epidemiology studies linking increasing melanoma incidence with UV radiation, and suggest the need for a search for other ways in which the disease may be caused.”
Dr. Ackerman agreed. In his meticulously documented monograph, he notes that “researchers have created an epidemic of melanoma when, in fact, the only change has been an “epidemic” in diagnoses of melanoma.”
Notwithstanding the research presented by these dermatologists, the American Academy of Dermatology (AADA) and other melanoma organizations continue to spread misinformation regarding the disease. Dr. William James, president of the AAD has said that melanoma has become the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, testifying to that statement before the FDA. Yet, he did not mention data from the National Cancer Institute indicating that death due to melanoma has decreased by 50% among women of ages 20-49 since 1975. That means young women have less than one chance in 100,000 of dying from melanoma, which does not even place it in the top 15 causes of cancer death. And, the American Cancer Society states that “since 2000 melanoma has been decreasing rapidly in whites younger than 50, by 3% per year in men since 1991 and by 2.3% per year since 1995 in women.” We might ask why these figures are not included in the statements by dermatologists regarding the “epidemic” of melanoma. Could it be because of a cozy financial relationship with pharmaceutical companies that produce sunscreen?
Harmon Leon gave another reason to question the “epidemic” of melanoma: The USA has 4.5% of the world’s population, yet has 52% of the world’s melanoma. The American Cancer Society estimates 68,720 new melanomas in the US during 2009, whereas the World Health Organization estimates 132,000 new cases yearly worldwide. Something is very strange here. It certainly seems that the exceptionally high melanoma figures in the USA might be doctored to produce sunscreen sales, dermatology visits and the removal of benign leisions. If you want to read about how this is done, click on this link. http://www.cnbc.com/id/27087326
In addition, Dr. Ackerman points out the following in his monograph:
1. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society sold their seals of recognition to manufacturers of sunscreens, based on research conducted solely by the sunscreen industry. The price, he says, was “substantial in terms of dollars but incalculable in terms of honor.” For instance, for an application of $10,000 and an annual fee of 5,000, sunscreen manufacturers may boast approval of their products in the form of the “Seal of Recognition” of the American Academy of Dermatology. They then display this seal on the front of their tubes. The American Cancer Society allows its logo to be placed on tubes of Neutrogena sunscreens in exchange for $300,000 annually.
2. In 2007, the year in which the Seal of Recognition program for the AAD was implemented, the past president of the board, who chaired the Seal program, and half the members of the board had financial ties to companies that manufacture sunscreen. And in 2008, all four new members of the board had those ties.
3. Darrell Rigel, a former president of the AAD, affirmed how important it was to avoid the sun while he, himself, was on vacation in Hawaii.
4. The AAD ran announcements for and updates on their scientific meetings, stating that they took place in “Sunny San Diego” and “Sunny San Antonio.” [Aren’t they supposed to avoid the sunlight?]
We now have two possibilities (see parts 1 and 2 of this post). (1.) Either melanoma has increased exponentially while sunlight exposure dramatically decreased or (2.) There has been no increase in melanoma; the purported increase is nothing more than an increase in the number of harmless skin spots that are being diagnosed as melanoma by an increasing number of dermatologists. In either case, the idea that regular, non-burning sunlight exposure is the cause of melanoma is a fraud—an idea promulgated by dermatological academies, sunscreen manufacturers and melanoma foundations driven by the desire for profit.
 Rhodes, A. Melanoma’s Public Message. Skin & Allergy News 2003;34 (4):1-4
 Ackerman, B. The Sun and the “Epidemic” of Melanoma: Myth on Myth. Ardor Scribendi, New York 2008.
 D. Czarnecki, C. J. Meehan and F. Bruce. The vitamin D status of Australian dermatologists. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 2009;34, 624–25.
 Shuster, S. Is sun exposure a major cause of melanoma? No. BMJ 2008;337:a764
 N.J. Levell, C.C. Beattie, S. Shuster and D.C. Greenberg. Melanoma epidemic: a midsummer night’s dream? British J Dermatol 2009;161:630–34
 Age-adjusted mortality rates by Cancer site, Ages 20-49, White, Female 1975-2007. National Center for Health Statistics, Center for Disease Control, April 10, 2010. National Cancer institute.
 American Cancer Society Cancer reference Information 2009. http://nccu.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_What_are_the_key_statistics_for_melanoma_50.asp?sitearea=