Fit and Fabulous Over 40


FDA Approves New Treatment for Type of Skin Cancer

FDA Approves New Treatment for Type of Skin Cancer
March 31
13:13 2017

If you’re anything like me or many others past the age of 40, you grew up spending a great deal of time outside in the sunshine. We didn’t have all of the electronic toys and devices that keep younger people indoors these days. We played many different kinds of sports outdoors. We hiked, fished, hunted, camped and oh, the many hours we spent at our favorite swimming pools or holes.

Now that we’re over 40, we discover that all that time we spent in the wonderful sunshine is now taking its toll on our skin. Another thing we are learning is that our skin is getting thinner and less resistant to cuts scrapes and bug bites. One of those tolls taken by our skin after years of exposure to the sun is skin cancer.

Some of the statistics on skin cancer may surprise you:

  •  Each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
  • Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once.
  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. More than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. More than 1 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
  • Organ transplant patients are approximately 100 times more likely than the general public to develop squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.
  • About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. 
  • The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for nonmelanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.

Yes, I’ve also paid the price for my years being outside in the hot Arizona sun. Over ten years ago, I had an early pre-cancer spot removed from my nose and from an ear. Fortunately, my pre-cancer spots were found early and were easily removed before they could develop any further or spread.

However, if you are one of the ones that are not as fortunate and have developed Merkel Cell Carcinoma, you may be pleased to learn that the FDA had recently approved a new treatment for this form of skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:

“Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare, aggressive skin cancer that is at high risk of recurring and spreading (metastasizing) throughout the body, with most recurrences taking place within two years after diagnosis of the primary tumor. While the disease is 40 times rarer than melanoma (an estimated 0.24 cases per 100,000 persons in the U.S.), it kills about one in three patients compared with one in nine for melanoma.”

“MCC most often arises on sun-exposed areas in fair-skinned individuals over age 50. Its name comes from the similarity of these cancer cells to normal Merkel cells in the skin that are thought to be associated with touch sensation. Normal Merkel cells were first described more than 100 years ago by Friedrich Sigmund Merkel.”

Rare or not, you just may be one of those unfortunate few, so here is the good news as reported by the American Cancer Society:

“The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Bavencio (avelumab) for Merkel cell carcinoma that has spread to other parts of the body – the first time it’s approved a drug for this rare and aggressive type of skin cancer. About 1,500 cases of Merkel cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the US each year. If not caught early, it often spreads to other parts of the body, and can become very hard to treat.”

If you notice any unusual spots on your skin, have them checked out as soon as possible. It’s best to be told that it’s nothing than to wait until it’s too late to treat if it was cancer. If you have any questions or want to learn more, I recommend you visit the Skin Cancer Foundation.


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