(UNDATED) - Even as we are winning battles with some types of cancer, the number of people with skin cancer is rising.
This week, Dr. Boris Lushniak, the acting U.S. Surgeon General who is also a dermatologist, called skin cancer a major public health problem that requires immediate action.
"Until today, the surgeon general has never said, 'UV radiation is bad for you; protect your skin,'" Lushniak said in a statement. "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."
Nearly five million people in the U.S. are treated for skin cancer each year, more than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.
"Luckily, most skin cancers are very treatable; most are not deadly. But there are still a lot of deadly skin cancers, melanoma being the main one," said Dr. Beth Brogan, dermatologist with St. Vincent Medical Group in Indianapolis. Though we have long known we should wear sunscreen every day to protect ourselves, "what we know and what we do are often two different things. We know a lot of people are still getting too much sun exposure," Brogan said.
Brogan agrees with Lushniak about the tanning culture, and she says indoor tanning - which expose you only to ultraviolet A rays as opposed to ultraviolet A and B which come from the sun - is boosting the number of skin cancer cases.
"Ultraviolet A rays associated with indoor tanning are directly related to an increased risk of melanoma," Brogan said. "We have also seen an increase in the instance of melanoma in young women over the last 20 to 30 years, those most likely to use indoor tanning."
Melanoma rates have increased more than 200-percent over the last 40 years, and the National Cancer Institute says melanoma is now the most common form of cancer for adults between the ages of 25 and 29. About 9,000 people in the U.S. die from melanoma each year.
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