NYU Medical Center Board-Certified Dermatologist: How COVID-19 Caused Delays in Skin Cancer Diagnosis
When caught early, skin cancer, including melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — is highly treatable. However, from March to May 2020 during the peak of the first wave of COVID-19, the pandemic closed many dermatology offices across the country — limiting patients’ access to the timely diagnosis and management of skin cancer.
According to research published today in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, with reduced access to care, the number of skin cancers diagnosed during this time period in 2020 decreased by 43% compared to the same timeframe last year.
As dermatology practices reopened and patient visits increased, the researchers found that skin cancers diagnosed from June to August 2020 were only slightly higher than the number diagnosed from June to August 2019. In total, 2020 skin cancer diagnoses trail 2019 skin cancer diagnoses, suggesting a large backlog of undiagnosed skin cancers.
“Because of the delay, there’s potential that dermatologists will be diagnosing and treating melanomas that are at a more advanced stage in the coming year,” said Darrell Rigel, MD, MS, FAAD, study author and clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. “It’s important to detect skin cancer early when it’s most treatable. I urge everyone to check their skin regularly and see a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin or any spots that are growing, changing, itching or bleeding.”
Dr. Rigel is available to provide additional insights on this research of more than 4.7 million people across 13 states. He also can discuss skin cancer risk factors and steps people can take to protect themselves, such as: seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing when going outdoors.
The American Academy of Dermatology has resources available to the public that provide more information about skin cancer detection and prevention:
- How to Check Your Skin for Signs of Skin Cancer
- What to Look for: ABCDEs of Melanoma
- How to Prevent Skin Cancer