HEALTH

Don’t get a tan, indoors or out, Americans told in skin cancer warning

With deadly melanomas up 200pc in 40 years, government says cover up and skip the solarium

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 July, 2014, 9:19pm
 

Stop sunbathing and using solariums, the acting US surgeon general has warned in a report that cites an alarming 200 per cent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973.

The report released on Tuesday blames a generation of sun worshipping for the US$8 billion spent in the US to treat all forms of skin cancer each year.

Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak said state and local officials needed to do more to help people cover up, such as providing more shade at parks and sporting events. Schools should encourage children to wear hats and sunscreen and schedule outdoor activities when the sun is low in the sky. And colleges and universities should eliminate indoor sun beds on campus much as they would prohibit tobacco use, he added.

"We need more states and institutions on board with these policies that discourage or restrict indoor tanning by our youth," Lushniak said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin."

The surgeon general's "call to action" is part of a broader push this year by government officials and public health advocates to raise awareness about what they say has become a major public health problem. While other cancers such as lung cancer are decreasing, skin cancer is rising rapidly. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, five million people are treated in the US for skin cancer each year. And the number of Americans with skin cancer in the past three decades eclipses the number of all other cancers combined.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with 9,000 Americans dying each year from the mostly preventable disease.

Stacey Escalante blames years of sunbathing with baby oil and using indoor tanning beds for her melanoma diagnosis in 2005. The mother of two was a 34-year-old television reporter training for a marathon when she found a small red growth the size of a pencil eraser on her lower back. By the time she saw a doctor, the cancer had travelled to her lymph node, requiring two operations. She then spent two years on an experimental drug.

Escalante said she realised now that she was lucky to survive, and was foolish to think she was immune to skin cancer because her father was Hispanic and she tanned well. Now an advocate for early detection, Escalante is pushing for state legislation prohibiting minors from using indoor tanning beds.

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