Climate Change and Dermatology

Mark Davis, MD, Chair, Department of Dermatology, Mayo Clinic in Minnesota

December 2022

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Dr. Davis presented on climate change and dermatology. He spoke about climate change definitions, consequences, effects on the skin, effects on dermatology, and what dermatologists can do individually and as a group to address climate change.

Weather comprises short-term atmospheric conditions that may change in hours, or days, including rain, snow, floods, and thunderstorms. Climate, by contrast, represents long-term regional or global averages of temperature, humidity, and rainfall patterns over seasons, years, or decades.  The planet has been noted to be warming rapidly in recent decades, with catastrophic effects.  This has been attributed to numerous factors, including consumption of fossil fuels.  As a result, we are seeing drought, wildfires, rising sea levels, and extreme weather events.  The epidemiology of infection is changing as a result, and human migration from areas of drought is accelerated.

There is a growing body of evidence for a changing distribution of skin diseases associated with climate change, including changes in the epidemiology of viral infections, including hand-foot-and-mouth disease and tick- and mosquito-borne diseases.

As a group, dermatologists are raising awareness of climate change. The American Academy of Dermatology created a consortium on climate and health to increase public awareness about the harmful effects of climate change on our health. The International Society of Dermatology has a climate change committee to educate physicians regarding the effects of climate change.  “My Green Doctor” offers dermatologists a free program to adopt sustainable practices.

Dr. Davis emphasized that dermatologists have a responsibility to recognize the effects of climate change on our patients and to contribute to efforts to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.