Skin cancer prevention programs could avert 20% of new cases between 2020 and 2030, according to a report by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and more than 90% of skin cancers are melanomas. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation-related skin cell damage is the main culprit that leads to most melanomas. Sixty-five thousand people were diagnosed with melanomas in 2011, and the cancer causes more than 9,000 deaths annually.
“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. “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.”
The CDC expects the annual cost of treating new melanoma cases to nearly triple to $1.6 billion in 2030 in the absence of preventive programs, which can prevent 21,000 new cases per year.
Some steps communities can take to reduce exposure to UV rays are:
- Increase shade on playgrounds, at public pools, and other public spaces
- Promote sun protection in other recreational areas
- Encourage employers, childcare centers, schools, and colleges to educate about sun safety and skin protection, and restrict the availability and use of indoor tanning by minors
- Encourage community members to protect their skin with clothing, wide-brimmed hats, broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen, and outdoor shade.
The Affordable Care Act also provides free behavioral counseling to people aged 10–24 years with fair skin about limiting their exposure to UV radiation to reduce risk of skin cancer, says the CDC.
This article first appeared in the July 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.