The sun is the primary source of excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is the cause of most skin cancers. Immediate adverse effects of excessive exposure are sunburn and eye damage; longer effects include premature aging of the skin and skin cancer.
Why Preventing Skin Cancer Matters
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with more new cases occurring than combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer each year (1). Each year, more than two million people are diagnosed, and many of these cases could be prevented by protecting the skin from excessive sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning (2). This large and growing number of people with skin cancer renders this disease a serious concern. In 2004, the total direct cost associated with the treatment for nonmelanoma skin cancer was $1.4 billion (3). However, it is difficult to measure the true cost of skin cancer treatment as basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are not required to be reported to cancer registries. Melanoma is the leading cause of death in skin cancer with one American dying from melanoma every hour on average (3).
- By 2015, it is estimated that one in 50 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime (4).
- Rates for new melanoma cases have been rising on average 2.6% each year over the last 10 years. It is the 5th leading cause of cancer in the U.S. (5).
- Melanoma is more common in men than women and among individuals of fair complexion and those who have been exposed to natural or artificial sunlight (such as tanning beds) over long periods of time (5).
- There are more new cases among Caucasians than any other racial/ethnic group (5).
- Melanoma rates are highest among ages 55-64 years (5).
- Melanoma is expected to be diagnosed in about 76,690 persons in 2013, accounting for less than 5% of all skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths (1).
- Among young adults between 20-39 years, melanoma is the second most common invasive cancer, behind only breast cancer (6).
- Until the age of 40, females have a higher incidence of melanoma than males, with a peak ratio of 1.8:1 (female:male) occurring between 20 and 24 years of age. After age 40, this ratio reverses, and older men had twice the incidence of older females (7).
- The estimated cost of treating melanoma in 2010 was $2.36 billion (8).
- Skin cancer facts (2013). Skin Cancer Foundation. Retrieved on January 26, 2014, from http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts#general.
- The Lewen Group, Inc. The burden of skin diseases 2005. The Society for Investigative Dermatology and The American Academy of Dermatology Association. 2005. Retrieved on January 26, 2014, from http://www.lewin.com/~/media/lewin/site_sections/publications/april2005skindisease.
- American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-036845.pdf.
- Rigel DS, Russak J, Friedman R. The evolution of melanoma diagnosis: 25 years beyond the ABCDs. CA Cancer J Clin. 2010 Sep-Oct; 60(5): 301-16.
- SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Melanoma of the Skin. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved January 26, 2014, from http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/melan.html.
- Bleyer A., Barr R. Cancer in young adults 20 to 39 years of age: overview. Semin Oncol.2009;36(3):194–206.
- Bleyer, A., O’Leary, M., Barr, R., & Ries, L.A.G. (Eds.). (2006). Cancer Epidemiology in Older Adolescents and Young Adults 15 to 29 Years of Age, Including SEER Incidence and Survival: 1975-2000. National Cancer Institute, NIH Pub. No. 06-5767. Bethesda, MD. Retrieved on January 26, 2014, from http://seer.cancer.gov/archive/publications/aya/aya_mono_complete.pdf.
- The Cost of Cancer. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved January 26, 2014 from http://www.cancer.gov/aboutnci/servingpeople/cancer-statistics/costofcancer.
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