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Rise in skin cancer rates among females reveals alarming tanning trends

UV exposure among Caucasian girls and young women is on the rise, according to new data presented at the 2019 American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) summer meeting in New York.

Research introduced at the AAD summer session (July 25-28) shows that between 1970 and 2009, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have increased 800% among women between the ages 18-39, making it the second most common cancer in young women in America. During the same period, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma rates have increased by 145% and 263%, respectively.

“Because there is a delay between UV exposure and when skin cancer appears, most women do not think it will happen to them,” said Dr. M. Laurin Council, a board-certified dermatologist, in a press release. “This data reveals the disproportionate rise in the number of skin cancers in women and the need for further education regarding UV exposure.”

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

A single indoor tanning session can increase a person's lifetime risk of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%. Indoor tanning before age 35 can increase one’s risk of melanoma by 59%.

“It is important that young people understand the potential impact of the habits they form when they are younger,” said Dr. Council, who is also an associate professor of dermatology at Washington University in St. Louis. “There are serious, long-term consequences to activities such as sun bathing and using indoor tanning devices.”

Dr. Council suggests parents speak with their children about limiting UV exposure, which is the easiest way to prevent skin cancer.

Additionally, practicing sun-safety habits, such as seeking shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, wearing protective clothing and regularly applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher is crucial.

Parents should also discourage the use of indoor tanning devices. “Everyone should be happy with the skin they were born with and protect it,” Dr. Council said. “Some skin cancers are treatable with surgery, but others are more advanced and may be deadly. It is important that we modify risky behaviors such as UV exposure to prevent the occurrence of skin cancer.”

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