The rising incidence of skin cancer in the U.S. has prompted the country's top doctor to put in the spotlight the most common form of cancer that affects millions of Americans.
On Tuesday, the office of acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak issued "The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer" which described skin cancer as a major public health problem and enumerated measures that can be adopted to prevent the disease.
The report cited too much exposure to ultraviolet light either through sun exposure or using indoor tanning beds as a primary contributor to the rising prevalence of skin cancer. It says that of the 63,000 individuals who are diagnosed of melanoma per year, about 6,000 are directly associated with indoor tanning.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it rapidly spreads to others parts of the body and although it only makes up about 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, the American Cancer Society says that it is the deadliest form of skin cancer responsible for the majority of skin-cancer related deaths.
Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than 9,000 people in the U.S. die each year because of melanoma and the rate is rising. From 1973 to 2011, for instance, the incidence of melanoma increased by over 200 percent. The condition is also the third most common form of cancer that affects individuals between 15 and 39 years old.
Despite the dangers posed by indoor tanning beds, indoor tanning remains popular with almost a third of white women between 16 to 25 years old using indoor tanning per year. In his statement, Lushniak said that thousands of teens expose themselves to harmful UV radiation through tanning beds yet only 10 states in the country have implemented laws that are aimed at preventing the practice.
"Together, we must communicate the risks in a clear and effective way to family, friends, and others to help them understand their role in preventing skin cancer," Lushniak said [pdf]. "We must also support policy and environmental changes that protect both children and adults."
The report enumerated several measures to help individuals prevent skin cancer including use of protective clothing, wearing of hat and sunglasses, seeking shade on a hot weather, use of sunscreen, avoidance of sunbathing and indoor tanning, and avoidance of exposure to sun when it is most intense which is between 9 am to 3 pm standard time.