redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The US Surgeon General has issued a new warning against skin cancer, claiming that even though the condition is preventable in most cases, it is believed to have affected more Americans than breast, prostate, lung, colon and all other forms of cancer combined over the past three decades.
In a statement released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Surgeon General reported that the rates of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer are on the rise. Nearly five million Americans are being treated for the condition every year at an average annual cost of over $8 billion, and it is one of the most common forms of cancer among teens and young adults in the US.
There are more than 63,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease, diagnosed in the US annually. While that represents just two percent of all skin cancer cases, it is also a 200 percent increase from 1973 to 2011, and is responsible for nearly 9,000 deaths each year.
“Until today, the surgeon general has never said, ‘UV radiation is bad for you; protect your skin,’” acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris Lushniak, who is a dermatologist by trade, told CNN.com on Wednesday. “We have to change the social norms about tanning. Tanned skin is damaged skin, and we need to shatter the myth that tanned skin is a sign of health.”
According to the Surgeon General’s report, more than 400,000 annual cases of skin cancer in the US (including 6,000 instances of melanoma) are believed to be linked to indoor tanning. As many as 44 states, as well as Washington DC, have already instituted some type of legislation or regulation related to indoor tanning, the advisory said, but nearly one-third of white females between the ages of 16 and 25 participate in the activity each year.
While health experts have long advised that people should take measures to protect themselves from the sun’s UV rays and refrain from using indoor tanning salons, Kim Painter of USA Today noted that this is the first time the Surgeon General’s office has weighed in on the issue.
The warning comes just two months after the Food and Drug Administration’s announcement that tanning beds and tanning lamps will soon have to include labels cautioning that they not be used by anyone under the age of 18, she added, and days after the House of Representatives passed the Sunscreen Innovation Act, which includes a review process for all manufacturers submitting new sunscreens to the FDA, according to CNN.
“While many other cancers, such as lung cancer, are decreasing, rates of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer — are increasing,” Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard K. Koh, a skin oncologist by trade, said in a statement. “Almost all of these cancers were caused by unnecessary ultraviolet radiation exposure, usually from excessive time in the sun or from the use of indoor tanning devices.”
“When people tan or get sunburned, they increase their risk of getting skin cancer later in life,” added Lushniak. “We want all Americans to lead healthy, active lives. We all need to take an active role to prevent skin cancer by protecting our skin while being outdoors and avoiding intentional sun exposure and indoor tanning.”