Surgeon General's Skin Cancer Declaration Praised by Pa. Physicians

- Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, declared skin cancer to be a major public health problem that requires immediate action, stating the rates of skin cancer are increasing in the United States 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,” says Justin Vujevich, MD, FAAD, president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery. “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.”

Unnecessary ultraviolent radiation exposure is often the cause of skin cancer, and according to Bruce A. MacLeod, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, it has been a concern of physicians across the state as well as many politicians in Harrisburg. A recent law enacted places restrictions on the use of commercial tanning beds for those age 17 and younger, while requiring more education for those older.

Both the Pennsylvania Academy of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery and the Pennsylvania Medical Society lobbied for several years to have the law passed.

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

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.

For comparison sake, the projected change of all invasive cancers between 2010 and 2013 was expected to grow 2.2 percent with certain counties considerably higher than others (Wyoming, 28.1 percent; Cameron, 19.6 percent; Carbon, 17.5 percent; Cumberland, 14.9 percent; and Snyder, 14.5 percent).

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

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