Skin Cancer Rates Just Keep On Rising

Illustrated by Zhang Qingyun.
There has truly never been a better reason to shop for a new floppy hat and some sunglasses: The rates of skin cancer (unlike many other cancers) have continued to rise over the past 30 years.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of melanoma in the U.S. doubled between 1982 and 2011. Although melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer, it accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. It's estimated that there will be nearly 10,000 deaths due to melanoma this year in the U.S.

Those are some scary numbers, especially because the vast majority (90%) of those cases were caused by UV exposure. That includes the rays we soak up from the sun and those from indoor tanning beds, which are already infamous for causing skin cancer that requires (sometimes gruesome) treatment.

The CDC says that those numbers will continue to rise unless we get serious about preventing skin cancer. And, if we do, the report suggests 20% of new cases between 2020 and 2030 could be prevented — amounting to about 230,000 cases prevented by 2030. That's all thanks to a community-based approach that includes adding shady areas to playgrounds and pools, plus encouraging people to keep covered in the sun and slather on the sunscreen (at least SPF 15, please!). Oh, and restricting the use of indoor tanning, especially by minors.

“The rate of people getting melanoma continues to increase every year compared to the rates of most other cancers, which are declining,” said the CDC's Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH in a press release. “If we take action now, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of new cases of skin cancers, including melanoma, and save billions of dollars in medical costs.”

So, please, have no shame in going full Mom Mode in the middle of your summer pool party: Keep nagging everyone to put sunscreen on in between umbrella-embellished cocktails. They'll thank you eventually.
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