Newspaper article

Counseling Young, Fair-Skinned People against Sunbathing Can Get Them to Change Habits, Experts Find

Newspaper article

Counseling Young, Fair-Skinned People against Sunbathing Can Get Them to Change Habits, Experts Find

Article excerpt

Fair-skinned teenagers and young adults, as well as the parents of fair-skinned children, should receive counseling from their doctors on how to avoid ultraviolet radiation that can lead to skin cancer, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of preventive health experts.

The recommendations are only for people with fair skin who are under the age of 25, say the experts, because evidence has failed to show that counseling older fair-skinned people — or people with different skin types — has much of an impact on getting them to change their sun-worshipping behavior.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that those people don’t need to worry about sun damage and skin cancer. Everybody is at risk.

Minnesotans have higher incidence

Indeed, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. About 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each day, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. All forms of skin cancer can be deadly, but melanoma, which develops in the melanocytes, or cells that give skin its color, is considered the most serious form of the disease. Melanoma accounts for only 2 percent of all skin cancer cases, but is responsible for 80 percent of skin cancer deaths.

In recent years, the incidence of melanoma among younger adults in the U.S. has been rapidly rising. A Mayo Clinic study published in 2012 reported an eightfold increase between 1970 and 2009 in the melanoma incidence among young women (aged 18 to 39) and a fourfold increase among young men.

Minnesota has a particularly high incidence of melanoma — the highest in the Midwest, according to a 2017 study. (As I’ve reported here before, that higher incidence may be because of the state’s large white population — around 85 percent — and/or because Minnesota’s health-care system does a better job of detecting skin cancers than the systems in many other states.)

Although the cause of all melanomas is not clear, most are believed to be the result of exposure to ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds. Fair-skinned people — those with ivory or pale skin, light hair, light eye color and freckles or who sunburn easily — are at particularly high risk of developing skin cancer. Other people at high risk are those with many moles, a family history of skin cancer, an HIV infection or a history of an organ transplant. …

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