Friday, August 1, 2014

Skin Cancer Gets Serious

   In June I wrote this post regarding the use of sunscreen and the new sunscreen labels, and this post from 2011 is one of many I have written in an effort to educate on the dangers of using tanning beds.
   Last week the US Surgeon General released a 112 page Call to Action in an effort to reduce skin cancer and skin cancer death in the United States - caused by ultraviolet radiation (UV).  According to the report, more Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined and melanoma, the most common skin cancer in young adults and adolescents, is the most lethal skin cancer, with as many as 9000 deaths attributed to melanoma each year.  
   The acting Surgeon General and the assistant Secretary of Health are both physicians who have treated patients with skin cancer.  Their concern is that in spite of efforts to promote sun protection and reduce intentional tanning, skin cancer incidence and death rates continue to rise, while other cancer rates have declined (e.g., prostate cancer, breast cancer). Skin cancer is expensive to treat, potentially lethal, disfiguring and in most cases PREVENTABLE.
   The Call to Action asks individuals, communities, organizations/employers and policy makers to take specific action in order to meet 5 goals.  The goals are:
  • Increase Opportunities for Sun Protection in Outdoor Settings
  • Provide Individuals with the Information They Need to Make Informed, Healthy Choices About UV Exposure
  • Promote Policies that Advance the National Goal of Preventing Skin Cancer
  • Reduce Harms from Indoor Tanning
  • Strengthen Research, Surveillance, Monitoring, and Evaluation Related to Skin Cancer Prevention
   The Call to Action includes strategies to reach each of these goals, e.g., schools and businesses could provided shaded areas for outside recreation, health educators, such as myself, could continually promote the use of sun protection products and behaviors, states could ban or limit the use of indoor tanning facilities, health care organizations could offer free skin cancer screenings, researchers, also like myself, could evaluate the outcomes related to these strategies.  
   The 112 page Call to Action is fascinating and contains a lot of important information about most cancer types, the incidence rates of common cancers, sources of UV radiation, risk factors for skin cancer and prevention strategies.  The Call to Action also lists states which have indoor tanning restrictions and details the restrictions themselves. You can read the full report here; in addition, the CDC provides an easy to read, informative booklet (2 pages) that highlights the severity of the problem and what you can do to protect yourself.  Please read and share the booklet.  My post was meant to raise your awareness but it does not contain the level of detail you need to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
   Remember, there are measures to take while outside, and there are numerous benefits to being outside, even (or especially) in the sunlight.  We cannot, nor should we, avoid being outside, but we can and we absolutely should, avoid tanning beds.

[NB: I cannot speak about sun exposure without reminding you that tanning also accelerates the look of aging.]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer
Washington, DC:
U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2014

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