Rising Melanoma Rates in the U.S. – Causes and How to Avoid

Each year in America, nearly five million men and women are treated with skin cancer, including melanoma – the deadliest type of skin cancer. According to the US National Cancer Institute, the number of American adults diagnosed with melanoma has been growing at a remarkable rate; so much so that the rate of new melanoma cases has tripled from 7.89 per 100,000 population in the 1970s to 22.7 in 2010.

Just as shocking is the fact that melanoma death rate for the highest risk group, which is white American males, has increased rapidly from 2.6 deaths per 100,000 men in 1975 to 4.6 in 2011.

The CDC has also reported that the rates of new melanoma cases among both men and women have been rising by 1.4 to 1.6 percent per year. Teenagers have also not been spared, with melanoma incidence increasing by 2 percent every year between 1973 and 2009.

What To Avoid / Causes of Melanoma

While the exact causes of this deadly cancer are not known, scientists have established various risk factors for melanoma, including tanning, family history, severe sunburns, UV radiation, number of moles on the person’s skin, freckles, and fair skin.

To reduce the incidence of melanoma, people can manage three of these risk factors: severe sunburns, exposure to UV radiation, and indoor tanning.

1. Limiting exposure to direct sunlight

Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is a human carcinogen. According to the CDC, 61 percent of American adults know that excessive exposure to direct sunlight can cause cancer, and even take measures to protect themselves. In fact, public health surveys suggest that the number of Americans claiming to protect themselves from the sun increased considerably between 2005 and 2010.

Within this period, there has also been significant growth of sunscreen product sales, implying that they could be one of the primary ways for people to protect themselves from direct sunlight. Unfortunately, bogus label claims of being “broad-spectrum”, combined with the fact that some only protect from UVB rays (not also UVA rays) could be leaving Americans unprotected in direct sunlight.

2. Avoid sunburns

One study shows that while a good number of American adults employ certain sun protective behaviors, such as using sunscreen, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and staying in the shade, there has not been a corresponding reduction in sunburns among individuals in that age group.

3. Avoid tanning beds

Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate to the dermal-epidermal where melanomas begin, while UVB increase the risk of getting skin cancers, including melanomas.

The increased risk of melanoma linked to the use of tanning beds is 59 percent for people who were first exposed to the artificial UV rays before the age of 35 years, and increases with the number of tanning bed sessions each year.

Generally, all tan – from direct or artificial UV rays, can cause melanoma. So, if you really want to look tan, perhaps consider using a self-tanning product, but also use sunscreen with SPF 30, since most self-tanners typically don’t offer any sun protection.

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