Growing up in Colorado, I spent most of my free time outside. Even when we had a morning blizzard, I could sunbathe in the afternoon-surrounded by beautiful snowdrifts to catch the rays. Baby oil was the suntan lotion of choice. The badge of honor on Monday mornings was to show off our raccoon eyes from wearing goggles while skiing on a sunny spring day. Living a “mile high” (and that is before the new marijuana law) meant we were closer to the sun. I could cringe now thinking about how we damaged our skin, but that would just cause more wrinkles. I never thought about skin cancer-only how to have that ‘healthy’ glow and I was not alone.
Unfortunately, our actions as children can catch up to us. On July 29, 2014, the Surgeon General released a new report — a Call to Action to raise awareness about skin cancer, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year and the medical costs are soaring to over $8.1 billion. The report states that over the past 30 years, the number of Americans who had skin cancer are higher than the number for all cancers combined. Rates of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, increased more than 200%. There are more than 63,000 new cases and 9,000 deaths from melanoma each year.
What is the cause for these alarming statistics? Almost all of these cancers are caused by UV exposure from the sun or indoor tanning devices. I remember television commercials which showed a beautiful women with a dark ‘San Tropez” tan enjoying the good life in her splendid pool with an azure sea behind her. We all wanted to be that woman. Having a tan meant health and wellness. We were so wrong! Tanning is the skin’s response to sun damage.
While it is important to have an active life, we need do it safely outdoors. We just need to cover up. The Surgeon General recommends the following steps: 1) protective gear such as a hat, sunglasses, clothing; 2) seeking shade; and 3) using sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher especially during midday. The reports urges all communities to come together to raise awareness on the need to take cover.