Young Women Are the Fastest Growing Demographic for Getting Skin Cancer: Important Summer Tips For Women • Long Beach Post

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is a guest post by Dr. Lindsay Larson, a primary care physician with OptumCare Medical Group, located in Long Beach.

In Southern California we spend the summertime outside. We go to the beach, attend backyard barbecues and play at the pool. Unfortunately, many of us are outside without proper sun protection and that is why melanoma, the most common form of skin cancer, is the most diagnosed cancer in the United States.

While everyone is at risk for melanoma, young women are the fastest growing demographic for getting the condition. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), melanoma is the leading cause of cancer deaths of young women between the ages of 24-29. The reason for this trend has not changed in decades– many young women still think being tan is a measure of health and youthfulness.

Despite repeated messages from physicians and health experts, young women are in the sun more frequently than men without sunscreen or ultra violet (UV) protection. Tanning beds, most often used by women, are also a significant cause of skin cancer. Researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.[1] [2]

Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes, cells that make a brown pigment called melanin, which gives the skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Melanoma is caused by UV rays from sunlight or artificial sources.

The good news is that melanoma is preventable and treatable. The key is to avoid harmful UV rays but if you have melanoma get treatment. If detected early, the cure rate for melanoma is around 95 percent.

All people, but young women in particular, need to pay attention and follow these steps when it comes to the sun, UV rays and melanoma:

  • Wear a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher
  • Wear a hat, sun glasses and close with UV projection
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • See a doctor if a mole is bleeding, scaly or red around the mole
  • If your family has a history of melanoma, get a full body skin check twice a year

Examine your skin on a regular basis and follow the ABCDE rule. If a mole has these traits it should be checked by a doctor:

  • Asymmetry: The mole is not symmetrical. Normal moles are symmetrical
  • Border: The mole is blurry or has jagged edges
  • Color: The color is uneven
  • Diameter: The diameter is larger than a pencil eraser (about ¼ inch or 6mm)
  • Elevation: The mole is raised or has an uneven surface
  • It’s time to break the myth that having a tan is a sign of health. Let’s make this the summer where all of us, but young women in particular, stop the trend of getting preventable skin cancer.

[1] Wehner M, Chren M-M, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol 2014; 150(4):390-400. Doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.
[2] Wehner MR, Shive ML, Chren MM, Han J, Qureshi AA, Linos E. Indoor tanning and non-melanoma skin cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2012 Oct 2;345:e5909.

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