In a hard-hitting announcement, the U.S. Surgeon General has urged Americans to protect their skin from both outdoor and indoor ultraviolet light as skin cancer cases increase in a generation raised on tanning.
Numerous publications reported on the July announcement from acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, who described skin cancer as a major public health problem. He stressed that excessive exposure to indoor and outdoor ultraviolet light is the major culprit behind a rise in skin cancer.
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The surgeon general’s late July warning came just two months after the federal Food and Drug Administration said it will soon mandate warning labels be placed on tanning lamps and tanning beds, and that those younger than age 18 should not use these products.
The new report from the surgeon general said more action is needed as skin cancers in the U.S. continue to increase, which is not the case with many other cancers.
About 5 million people across America are treated for skin cancer annually, at a cost of more than $8 billion. The report found about 63,000 skin cancer cases are the most serious form of the disease, melanoma. About 6,000 of those cases can be linked to indoor tanning, officials said.
The report found ultraviolet radiation exposure from indoor tanning salons and other devices is completely avoidable.
Lushniak, a dermatologist, said more states need to join those that have banned minors from indoor tanning and the 44 states with restrictions on the practice.
The surgeon general’s report urges people of all skin colors to listen to sound advice about minimizing exposure to the sun – including the use of sunscreen, seeking shade, and wearing hats and sunglasses.
The report also calls on schools, businesses and urban planners to work towards offering shady spaces for the public and making it easier for residents to shield themselves from the sun.
The report did offer some good news.
Indoor tanning by teenagers has recently decreased, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The CDC says nearly 13 percent of teens under age 18 said they had gone indoor tanning in 2013, compared to 15.6 percent in 2009.
The World Health Organization five years ago declared indoor tanning devices cancer-causing.
Skin cancer researchers called the surgeon general’s report a major step forward in the battle to prevent skin cancer, but that follow-up action is needed.
Indoor tanning supporters and industry groups tried to downplay the surgeon general’s report as exaggerated, but federal health officials and the surgeon general defended the report and stressed its importance in the ongoing effort to reduce skin cancer, especially among young people.
The surgeon general said simply that tanned skin is damaged skin.