Spring Break is an annual tradition for many young people. They view it as a prelude to summer. A reason to put on their bathing suits and head to a warm beach. When they come back to school, they show off their tans proudly.
Skin cancer is the last thing they’re thinking about. And unfortunately, this preventable form of cancer is on the rise.
At the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dr. Brett Coldiron announced that the number of non-melanoma skin cancers treated doubled from 1994 to 2006 in a recent analysis of Medicare claims. The total number of new non-melanoma skin cancers in 2006 was estimated to be more than 3.5 million.
“While the American Cancer Society estimates more than 2 million new skin cancers will be diagnosed this year, our research shows that the annual incidence in 2008 could actually have been nearly 3.7 million,” said Dr. Coldiron.
“This is especially troubling as our estimate only includes Medicare patients, which means this could be even higher when young people are included in the count,” he told attendees at the meeting in New Orleans.
But getting young people to change their behaviors is not easy, Coldiron said. Tanning is glamorized in sunny climates. Young people need to know that ultraviolet light exposure whether it’s from the sun or a tanning bed increases your risk of getting skin cancer.
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology has created a Be Sun Smart campaign:
- Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.
- Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
- Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using a UV-free self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
- Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a doctor. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
Source: The American Academy of Dermatology
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