melanomaMelanoma skin cancer is the deadliest form of skin cancer.  Many believe that Arizona has similar age adjusted incidence rates to Australia, the world’s highest rate.  But during the middle of the last decade, the Arizona Cancer Registry data showed a puzzling decline in cancer rates.

The AZ Melanoma Task Force to look at the cause.  The task force consists of the Arizona Cancer Registry, the Skin Cancer Institute, University of Arizona Cancer Center, community dermatologist in both Maricopa and Pima Counties and the SunWise Skin Cancer Prevention Program.  They discovered that there was substantial under-reporting of melanoma cases (72% of cases missed) by reviewing case reports of 15 dermatology practices.  Physicians weren’t reporting their cases because they thought the pathology laboratory was reporting or they just didn’t know they were supposed to report.

The task force really stepped up to develop strategies to improve melanoma reporting by physicians.  The latest report shows that within one year of implementation of melanoma reporting strategies there was a 36% increase in reporting.  This is the first big step in really identifying the burden of melanoma. Although it now appears that melanoma rates are dramatically rising in Arizona, it’s more the “true” burden of melanoma coming to light and showing the importance of prevention strategies called for in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.