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Spike in female skin cancer rates reveals alarming tanning trends

NEW YORK (July 25, 2019) — Research highlights the need for further education around the dangers of UV exposure

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.1, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime.2 Limiting exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the number one way individuals can reduce their risk of skin cancer, though new data suggests that UV exposure is on the rise, particularly among Caucasian girls and young women.

Research presented at the 2019 American Academy of Dermatology Summer Meeting in New York shows that between 1970 and 2009, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have increased 800% among women ages 18-39, making it the second most common cancer in young women.3 During a similar timeframe, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma rates have also sharply increased by 145% and 263%, respectively.4

“Because there’s a delay between UV exposure and when skin cancer appears, most women don’t think it will happen to them,” says board-certified dermatologist M. Laurin Council, MD, FAAD, FACMS, an associate professor of dermatology at Washington University in St. Louis. “This data reveals the disproportionate rise in the number of skin cancers in women and the need for further education regarding UV exposure.”

Continued use of indoor tanning devices by Caucasian girls and young women is of particular focus, as researchers estimate that it may cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.5 Women are far more likely to use indoor tanning devices than men (7.8 versus 1.9 million)6, and of the women who began tanning before the age of 16, more than half (54%) did so with their mother.7

Even one indoor tanning session can increase a user’s lifetime risk of developing melanoma by 20%8, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%.9 The risk increases for younger users; indoor tanning before age 35 can increase one’s risk of melanoma by 59%.10 This risk increases with each use.8

“It’s important that young people understand the potential impact of the habits they form when they are younger,” says Dr. Council. “There are serious, long-term consequences to activities such as sun bathing and using indoor tanning devices.”

Dr. Council recommends that parents talk with their children about limiting UV exposure, which is the easiest way to prevent skin cancer. This means practicing sun-safety habits, such as seeking shade, especially when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.; wearing protective clothing, including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses; and regularly applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Parents should also discourage the use of indoor tanning devices.

“Everyone should be happy with the skin they were born with and protect it,” says Dr. Council. “Some skin cancers are treatable with surgery, but others are more advanced and may be deadly. It’s important that we modify risky behaviors such as UV exposure to prevent the occurrence of skin cancer.” More Information

About the AAD
Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1) and YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

1Guy GP, Machlin S, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff KR. Prevalence and costs of skin cancer treatment in the US, 2002–2006 and 2007–2011. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48:183–7.
2Stern RS. Prevalence of a History of Skin Cancer in 2007; Results of an Incidence-Based Model. Arch Dermatol. 2010;146(3):279-282.
3Reed KB, Brewer JD, Lohse CM, Bringe KE, Pruitt CN, Gibson LE. Increasing Incidence of melanoma among young adults: an epidemiological study in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Apr;87(4):328-34.
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6Guy GP, Berkowitz Z, Holman D and Hartman A. Recent Changes in the Prevalence and Factors Associated With Frequency of Indoor Tanning Among U.S. Adults. JAMA Dermatol 2015 Nov;151(11):1256-9.
7Watson M, Shoemaker M, Baker K. Indoor Tanning Initiation Among Tanners in the United States. JAMA Dermatol. 2017 May 1;153(5):470-472.
8Boniol M, Autier P, Boyle P, Gandini S. Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012 Jul 24;345:e4757.
9Wehner MR, Shive ML, Chren MM, Han J, Qureshi AA, Linos E. Indoor tanning and non-melanoma skin cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012 Oct 2;345:e5909.
10Cutaneous melanoma attributable to sunbed use: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Medical Journal 2012;345:e8503.