According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United States.
On Tuesday, the U.S. surgeon general—an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati residency program in dermatology—issued a call to action to prevent the disease, calling it a major public health problem that requires immediate action; as a result, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set five goals for communities to decrease the risk of skin cancer, including providing shade at parks, schools and other public spaces and reducing indoor tanning.
UC Cancer Institute skin cancer experts support this initiative, as they see the detriment caused by the sun every day.
Specifically, Adam Ingraffea, MD, who is also a clinical assistant professor and associate program director in UC’s department of dermatology and UC Health dermatologist, says tanning beds are particularly dangerous. He says he sees an ever-increasing number of young women with skin cancer who have a history of indoor tanning.
“A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states that the number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking,” he says. “In the U.S. alone, 419,254 cases of skin cancer can be attributed to indoor tanning. Out of this number, 6,199 are melanoma cases, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
He says many countries around the world and several states have banned indoor tanning for minors under the age of 18.
“There is no safe amount of indoor tanning, just is there is no safe number of cigarettes.”
Jeffrey Sussman, MD, professor and surgical oncology division chief at the UC College of Medicine and UC Health surgical oncologist, says he hopes that community members will take this warning seriously.
“Fifty years ago, the surgeon general warned that tobacco can cause cancer, and almost everyone accepts this as fact, even if many unfortunately continue to smoke,” he says. “Hopefully, people will learn the dangers of tanning beds and UV radiation exposure more quickly than the dangers of tobacco to stop or reduce their risk for skin cancer development.
“We are seeing more young patients in their 20s, 30s, and 40s with melanoma who use tanning beds. In addition to preventing cancer by avoiding harmful UV rays, people will benefit with younger looking skin. Melanoma, a cancer that even at a few millimeters thick, can spread and kill.”