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A Call to Action on Skin Cancer Prevention by the U.S. Surgeon General

by kelly / August, 6 2014 01:30

Don't use spray sunscreens

Here at Block Island Organics we are passionate about smart, fun and safe suncare.  As part of that we want to spread the word on sun safety to as many people as possible.  It's an important topic and recently even the acting U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Boris D. Lushniak, got behind the cause and released "The Surgeon General's Call To Action To Prevent Skin Cancer".  The document is a comprehensive 112 pages (don't worry, at the bottom of this article we have links to a few summaries) and as the title says a call to action for increased awareness, policies and research for preventing skin cancer.


One quick point I'd like to add.  Like us, the Surgeon General does not recommend avoiding the sun altogether and doesn't want to scare people from it.  Rather, he wants people to enjoy it safely.


In any event, I was surprised by some of the sobering stats that the document presented.  According to their report, "nearly 5 million people in the U.S. are treated for skin cancer every year, at an average annual cost of $8.1 billion".  That's a lot of money for what the U.S. Surgeon General believes can be mostly prevented.  Skin cancers are still on the rise as well and one of the most common types of cancers among teens and young adults.  A key message in their report is anyone, with any skin color, can get cancer.  The Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H, a supporter of the call to action said “as a skin oncologist who worked in this field for many years, I have cared for both the young and old with skin cancers. Almost all of these cancers were caused by unnecessary ultraviolet radiation exposure, usually from excessive time in the sun or from the use of indoor tanning devices”.


Yes indoor tanning is a big culprit outlined in the report as a cause of skin cancer.  Today, "more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer, about 6,000 of which are melanomas, are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the U.S. each year. Currently, as many as 44 states plus the District of Columbia have some type of law or regulation related to indoor tanning, but nearly one out of every three white women aged 16 to 25 years engages in indoor tanning each year."


Here is another stat that I found that was somewhat bothersome. It comes from a featured study on the Skin Cancer Foundation's site and was conducted on indoor tanning by a dermatology group:  "the number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking".  I know that many of us think tanned skin looks better and healthier but that is actually a myth, tanned skin is really damaged skin.


Fortunately the Surgeon General provides tips from the International Agency for Research on Cancer for ideal sun protection which involves several of the behaviors, including:

  • Using sunscreen (in conjunction with other sun protection behaviors).
  • Wearing tightly woven protective clothing that adequately covers the arms, torso, and legs.
  • Wearing a hat that provides adequate shade to the whole of the head.
  • Seeking shade whenever possible.
  • Avoiding outdoor activities during periods of peak sunlight (such as midday).


The Surgeon General also calls for the larger community to support the cause including "that businesses increase availability of sun protection for outdoor workers, that policy makers promote policies for shade planning in land use development, and that health providers counsel patients on the importance of using sun protection".


I think everyone should take a quick look at the report as it has a lot of helpful and important information.  It's dense so so if you don't have time to read the full report, here is an Executive Summary, a quick Fact Sheet and a Consumer Booklet to take a look at. maybe take it to the beach to read with your sunscreen while sitting under your umbrella in the shade!

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