Surgeon General Issues Skin Cancer Warning, Call To Action Across America
The Surgeon General of the United States recently issued a publication entitled “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer”. It calls on influencers from various sectors across the country to help raise awareness of the terrible effects of skin cancer and the ways that the public can reduce its chances of being stricken by this silent killer.
Federal, state, and local governments, our business, health, and education sectors, and community and faith-based organizations across America are all being called upon to do their part to alert families and individuals to the dangers and costs of this major health problem.
Five goals create a road map to reduce skin cancer
The Surgeon General is calling for the nationwide influencers to:
- Increase opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings.
- Provide individuals with the information they need to make informed decisions about exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Promote policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer.
- Reduce harms from indoor tanning.
- Strengthen research, surveillance, and monitoring related to skin cancer.
Deadly statistics are powerful skin cancer warning
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and can be disfiguring and even deadly, with nearly 5 million people being treated each year. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer striking 63,000 people each year and killing 9,000 of them. Tragically, it is also one of the most common forms of cancer in teenagers and young adults.
The costs of treating skin cancer are astronomical with $8.1 billion spent each year, $3.3 billion of which is attributable to melanoma treatment.
The most common cause of skin cancer is also the most preventable
Genetics certainly play a role in the risk of skin cancer such as fair skin or a family history of skin cancer, but the most common types of skin cancer are strongly related to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, or exposure to the sun, which are preventable. As many as 90% of melanomas are caused by UV radiation.
Excessive UV radiation such as prolonged sun exposure without protection, or exposure from indoor or outdoor tanning, are completely avoidable behaviors. More than 400,000 cases of skin cancer from tanning each year are related to indoor tanning devices—tanning beds, tanning booths, and sun lamps expose users to intense UV radiation. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified indoor tanning devices as Class I human carcinogens on the basis of strong evidence linking indoor tanning to an increased risk of skin cancer. In May, 2014, they were reclassified as Class II carcinogens (moderate to high risk of skin cancer).
Simple sun strategies can be very effective to prevent skin cancer from tanning
Wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing such as long sleeved shirts and pants when you know you’re going to be exposed to the sun’s rays, particularly during the midday hours. Find a shady spot you can move to whenever possible.
Use an FDA approved broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ to protect any exposed skin and reapply liberally. These sunscreens work best when used in combination with other methods such as protective clothing.
Proactive government programs can help prevent the rise of skin cancer
Despite efforts to educate the public about skin cancer from tanning or UV exposure in the workplace, skin cancer rates continue to increase worldwide.
However, proactive legislation can and will make a difference. Laws in Arizona and New York mandate instruction on skin care prevention as part of the health education curriculum in public schools. New York mandates sun-safety education for all state employees that spend more than 5 hours per week outdoors. Regarding tanning beds, California passed the most stringent youth access law in the country which prohibits indoor tanning under 18 years of age. Since then, Vermont, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Hawaii have followed suit with similar legislation.