Acting U.S. Surgeon General Issues Call to Action on Skin Cancer Prevention

With Pennsylvania’s new law to restrict use of tanning beds just into effect, the commonwealth is in step with a July 29 call to action from Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, MD, on skin cancer prevention.

Dr. Lushniak declared skin cancer to be a major public health problem that requires immediate action, stating that the rates of skin cancer are increasing in the U.S., with nearly 5 million treated for this disease every year.

Pennsylvania physicians agreed with Dr. Lushniak’s observation, pointing to state statistics that support the alarming announcement, but also mentioning a recent new state law is a starting point that could make a difference in the battle against skin cancer.

“Indoor tanning can raise your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer by 59 percent,” said Justin Vujevich, MD, FAAD, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, in an Aug. 1 news release. “More alarmingly, melanoma is increasing faster among U.S. teens and young adults, particularly females, and 70 percent of indoor tanning salon patrons are Caucasian young women.”

According to “Cancer Facts and Figures, Pennsylvania 2013” – a report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health – the projected change of those with melanoma of skin increased 15 percent from 2010. Projected deaths from melanoma of skin were projected 7.9 percent higher in 2013 than 2011.

“It took some time, but Pennsylvania recently joined the majority of states that want to protect their youngest generations from the dangers of tanning beds,” said Bruce MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED).

Both PAMED and the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery advocated for several years to have the law passed, which, among other provisions, bans use of tanning facilities by minors under the age of 17 and requires parental consent for seventeen-year-olds.

“It’s a start, and hopefully will make a difference, but other work is needed,” said Dr. MacLeod.

In addition to discouraging indoor tanning, Dr. Lushniak’s report also called for communities to provide more shading in outdoor settings and greater education on the importance of using sun protection.