Skin Cancer Reaching Epidemic Status
The statistics on skin cancer should make you grab the sun screen
and a hat before you head outdoors, or perhaps cancel that appointment
at the tanning salon.
The April issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter covers the facts about the prevalence of skin cancer, including:
Half of all new cancers in the United States are skin cancers.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer. Your chances of
getting skin cancer double if you have had five or more sunburns.
The American Academy of Dermatology has labeled skin cancer an unrecognized epidemic.
your risk of developing skin cancer increases as you age because the
effects of sun damage accumulate over time. Until recently, the more
treatable non-melanoma skin cancers were considered a problem for
people over age 50. However, the occurrence of these cancers in younger
adults has increased sharply.
Mayo Clinic researchers have documented the increase by tracking
skin cancer incidence in adults under age 40 in southern Minnesota.
Between 1976 and 2003, the incidence of basal cell skin cancers -- a
non-melanoma skin cancer -- roughly tripled in women, to more than 30
women per 100,000. The rate slightly increased among men, from about 23
to nearly 27 per 100,000.
Typically, 90 percent of non-melanoma cancers develop on sun-exposed
skin such as the head and neck. In the Mayo Clinic study, only 60
percent of the cancers were found on sun-exposed skin, leading to the
suspicion that visits to the tanning booth might account for those
When you head outdoors, slather on the sunscreen to block the sun's
ultraviolet radiation exposure. Use generous amounts - 1 ounce, or
about the amount in a shot glass - to protect your skin from the sun's
rays. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go out and reapply
every two hours. Wear protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and
As for tanning beds, think of them as high-dose UVA machines.
They're dangerous because occasional yet intense UVA exposure poses a
greater risk of melanoma skin cancer than does spending long hours in