Although U.S. melanoma rates have doubled in the past 30 years, health experts hope more education and skin care prevention programs could prevent new cases in the future, according to a recent report by the CDC.
The CDC’s June Vital Signs report revealed new cases of melanoma — the most fatal form of skin cancer — doubled between 1982 and 2011. In 2011, the report stated, there were 65,000 new cases.
Efforts to prevent future melanoma cases and reduce skin cancer rates include a requirement by the federal government that most healthcare insurance plans cover recommended skin cancer prevention counseling with no out-of-pocket costs through the Affordable Care Act. The government also is requiring indoor tanning equipment to meet special requirements for how the devices are designed and made. Tanning equipment also is required to have a visible warning that people under 18 should not use the devices, and warning statements in marketing materials must highlight the risk of using indoor tanning equipment. The CDC is recommending that communities and policymakers increase shade at playgrounds, public pools and other public spaces and promote sun protection in recreation areas, encouraging people to use sunscreen and wear hats and sunglasses. Employers, childcare centers, schools, colleges and other facilities should educate workers about sun safety and skin protection, according to the report. The CDC also wants communities to restrict the availability and use of indoor tanning by minors.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends counseling by doctors and other healthcare professionals for fair-skinned people ages 10 to 24 about the dangers of UV rays and skin cancer prevention, the report stated.
More than 90% of melanoma skin cancers in the U.S. are caused by UV exposure, according to the CDC report. Melanoma kills 9,000 Americans each year, with people of any skin color at risk of skin cancer, the report stated. People who are fair skinned are at higher risk of skin cancer.
The report reminds the public that tans and sunburns are the body’s response to UV exposure and are a sign of damaged skin, with one in three Americans receiving sunburns annually. Indoor tanning exposes users to more intense UV rays than the sun, according to the CDC, and about 6,200 melanomas are estimated to be caused by such equipment.
CDC researchers also point out that melanoma can be disfiguring and deadly and that deaths are higher for men than women. The annual cost for treating new melanoma patients has grown faster than annual treatment costs for all cancers combined, according to the report, with the cost projected to triple from $457 million to $1.6 billion through 2030. At the same time, skin cancer prevention efforts could save $250 million annually by 2030, the report said.
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