The acting U.S. surgeon general delivered sobering information in a report on skin cancer released Tuesday. Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak warned that melanoma cases have gone up 200 percent since 1973, and one of the ways to combat that scary statistic is to stop tanning.
"We need more states and institutions on board with these policies that discourage or restrict indoor tanning by our youth," he said. "Tanned skin is damaged skin." Lushniak is calling for state and local officials to ensure that parks have enough shade, and for schools to plan outdoor activities when the sun is lower and to teach children the importance of wearing hats and sunscreen, The Associated Press reports.
Lushniak's goal is to raise awareness of skin cancer, which is seen as a public health problem. More than $8 billion is spent every year to treat skin cancer, and the Department of Health and Human Services says that five million people are treated every year.
The deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma kills 9,000 people a year, but is mostly preventable. The Melanoma Research Foundation says that by using a tanning bed before turning 30, a person's risk of getting melanoma increases by 75 percent. "We need to change the social norm with respect to tanning and shatter the myth that tanned skin is somehow a sign of health," Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health for the Department of Health and Human Services, said.