The U.S. Surgeon General released a national Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer today outlining a plan to reduce the toll of skin cancer and save lives. Through a series of achievable goals and strategies focused on public policy and education, the plan will support more Americans in making healthy choices about protecting their skin. Kansas has an opportunity to implement the Call to Action locally by passing a comprehensive law restricting the use of indoor tanning devices by all minors.
“The good news is that most skin cancers are preventable,” said Reagan Cussimanio, Kansas government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action network (ACS CAN). “For the first time, the U.S. Surgeon General has called for national action to fight the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Despite widespread education efforts about sun safety and increased awareness about the importance of using sunscreen and avoiding indoor tanning devices, skin cancer diagnoses and deaths continue to increase. By bringing national attention to this growing public health crisis, the U.S. Surgeon General is calling on all of us to reinvigorate the fight against skin cancer.”
The report outlines strategies to increase public awareness of inadequate sun protection and harmful tanning behaviors. It specifically calls out the need to reduce the harms of indoor tanning through increased education for high-risk populations, youth and parents as well as enforcing and implementing youth restrictions.
In the 2015 legislative session, Kansas will have an opportunity to pass legislation which would prohibit children and teenagers under the age of 18 from accessing tanning beds.
“Today’s report is more proof that Kansas lawmakers must move forward on passing legislation to protect our youth from the harms of exposure to ultraviolet radiation,” said Cussimanio. “The dangers of indoor tanning, especially among young people, are staggering. Kansas legislators should act on the Surgeon General’s advice by passing strong laws to prevent all minors under the age of 18 from needless suffering and death from skin cancer.”
To date, nine states have already passed comprehensive laws which restrict minors’ use of tanning devices and many other states are considering similar legislation. States that have indoor tanning laws have a lower teen tanning rate than states without such laws.
In the United States, the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing rapidly in teens and young adults. It is now the fourth most common form of cancer for individuals aged 15 to 29. Young people under the age of 18 are particularly at risk for the damages associated with ultraviolet (UV) radiation and exposure, since their skin is not fully developed and their skin cells are dividing and changing more rapidly than those of adults. Research shows that those who use tanning devices before age 35 increase their risk of developing melanoma by 59 percent.
In Kansas this year, more than 780 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed and approximately 100 will die from the disease. Nationwide, it is estimated that more than 76,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and nearly 10,000 people will die from it. According to the Surgeon General’s report, each year in the United States, nearly 5 million people are treated for all types of skin cancer, with an annual cost estimated at $8.1 billion.
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit http://www.acscan.org/.