Is a Beautiful Deep Bronze Tan Worth the Risk of Melanoma?
Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is on the rise and the greatest change to recent statistics is the age group with the most significant increase in the number of cases. Since 1970, the incidence of melanoma has increased by eight times in women 18 – 39. While melanoma was once considered to be an “old person’s” disease, the increase among young women, a great number of whom are in their teens and early twenties, is an alarming trend.
The highest risk is for fair-skinned women with blue or green eyes, freckles, moles or red hair. Asians and those with darker skin have a lower risk, but when melanoma is diagnosed, it is often a more aggressive form. Men are not safe either. During the period from 1970 – 2009, melanoma rates among men increased four-fold.
What is behind the increase in melanoma?
While there is not just one factor that is attributable for the increase in melanoma rates, we do know that gender specific behaviors such as tanning, are among the factors behind the trend. According to the National Institutes of Health, excessive exposure to ultraviolet light increases the risk for all skin cancers. UV light is invisible radiation that can damage DNA in the skin and can be generated by the sun, sunlamps and tanning beds. The media and popular culture help to encourage the idealized image of tanning as healthy and glamorous, but the reality is that overexposure to UV rays is the culprit behind more than early aging, it is a dangerous health risk.
What can you do to decrease your risk of developing melanoma?
Sunscreen is one answer. Using a sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 15, every day, year round, is one way to help protect skin that will be exposed to harmful UV rays. The federal Food and Drug Administration recently announced that sunscreen manufacturers are being required to change the labels on their products to prohibit the use of misleading marketing terms such as “waterproof.” The new rules are also meant to clear up some confusion about the meaning of “sun protection factor,” or SPF.
Wearing protective clothing is another answer. Covering up from the sun doesn’t have to mean tossing out your sense of style. You can make a fashion statement with long sleeve shirts, pants, scarves, hats, tunics, saris and cover-ups while you protect your skin from sun damage. But remember, when you cover up don’t forget to use sunscreen on the exposed areas of skin such as your face, ears, neck, hands and feet, if you wear sandals.
What’s new in skin cancer prevention and early detection?
A new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that ultraviolet (UV) photography might provide important information about risk, not visible to the naked eye. UV photos can be used by doctors to check for early sun damage so they can effectively counsel children and their parents to provide better protection from sunlight.
• One-in-50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
• In 2009 nearly 63,000 were diagnosed with melanoma in the United States, resulting in approximately 8,650 deaths.
• The projected numbers (according to the National Cancer Institute) for 2012 are even higher with 76,250 diagnoses and 9,180 deaths.
• The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50 percent in young women since 1980.