How Derm Deserts Are Harming Our Skin

Source: Health Central, May 2024

Two years ago, in the fall of 2022, the American Dermatological Association (ADA) effectively declared war on health disparities in skincare, citing a concept many of us had not heard: medical deserts. Dermatology deserts or “derm” deserts, as they’re often called, are a particular breed of medical desert with profound ramifications for skin health. Derm deserts, the ADA reported, were directly tied to higher mortality risks in certain regions, due to an inability to find appropriate health care for skin diseases.

Though the idea of a desert may conjure up images of barren landscapes and rolling tumbleweed, a dermatology desert simply refers to an area where there are not enough—if any—dermatologists to treat the population. Typically, derm deserts are rural and/or poor areas in the U.S. where the dermatologist-to-general population ratio is less than four to 100,000.

If you don’t live in one, it’s likely an issue you’ve never given much thought to. But there are plenty of derm deserts across the U.S. in a time when serious or life-threatening skin conditions like melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—are on the rise: According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, more Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.