Surgeon General: Skin cancer up 200% from sunbathing

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

tanning bed
Indoor tanning booths are highly dangerous, and their ultraviolet lightbulbs can cause skin cancer.

We all know that the Sun can leave burns on our skin after a fun-filled day at the beach or local pool, but sunbathing can have a far more dangerous consequence. The USA’s Surgeon General, the main public health spokesperson for the government, reported this week that there has been a 200% increase in deadly cases of melanoma (skin cancer) since 1973. He blames a generation of sunbathing and indoor tanning for the fact that every year in America, $8 billion is spent on treating 5 million people for skin cancer, and 9,000 people die from melanoma.

Surgeon General Boris Lushniak is very concerned by the popularity of sunbathing, and even recommended that schools should treat it as seriously as smoking. He believes youth are not being educated enough on the importance of wearing sunscreen and hats, and that universities should stop providing indoor tanning beds. “Tanned skin is damaged skin,” explains Lushniak.

While lung cancer is on the decline, cases of skin cancer are skyrocketing. The deadliest form of skin cancer is called melanoma, which forms inside melanocytes (the cells in our skin that give it color). Although it’s not as common as other skin cancers, it’s far more dangerous if not discovered early on, and counts for 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

In 2012, melanoma caused 55,000 deaths across the world and occurred in 232,000 people. The cancer is most common in white-skinned people, caused by exposure to the Sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light, and requires surgery for removal. Even seemingly innocent indoor tanning beds are dangerous, because they have UV lightbulbs that can damage the skin. In fact, the Melanoma Research Foundation says that people who use tanning beds before age 30 can increase their chances of developing melanoma by 75%.

So, be sure to wear proper sunscreen, keep your exposure to sunlight at a reasonable level, and check your skin regularly for the appearance of new moles. If they change size, shape, or color, be sure to see a doctor, so they can test it for potential skin cancer.

Featured image courtesy of Trey Ratcliff on Flickr. Image of tanning bed courtesy of leyla.a on Flickr.