If you were to ask a random sampling of dermatologists what the dominant issue in dermatology will be during the next 100 years, you might hear melanoma. Or HIV. Or — I don’t know — photoaging and wrinkles.
Some of them, though, will pick the crisis that many outside of medicine are pointing to with alarm: climate change. In fact, the International Society of Dermatology (ISD) revised its bylaws to make climate change the defining issue of the 21st century. Dermatologists gathered at the group’s second Climate Change conference in June 2010 in Argentina. (The first was in Germany.)
Dr. Sigrid Muller, chair of the ISD’s Climate Change Task Force, explained at the 2010 Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar why he and his colleagues are getting hot under the collar because of climate change. If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news in recent years, you’ve heard about the increases in extreme weather we’re experiencing now, and some of the general disasters ahead if we don’t slow climate change.
On a more specific dermatologic level, as warmer weather crosses latitudes, different bugs and critters come with it, and so do the diseases they carry. As a result, Lyme disease is spreading from the U.S. into Canada. Peru and Ecuador will see more Carrion’s disease. Leishmaniasis is moving north into Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Ohio. And there are increasing reports of Chagas disease in the United States and Central and South America.
The ISD compiled a reference library and resources on these climate change problems for dermatologists.
Climate change: We’ll lose the polar bears, but the ticks and parasites may love it.
–Sherry Boschert (@SherryBoschert on Twitter)
Disclosure: The Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar is run by the Skin Disease Education Foundation (SDEF). SDEF and my employer (International Medical News Group) are subsidiaries of Elsevier.