Study: Skin cancer up in youths

Thursday, September 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:44 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

It seems a person is never too young to get skin cancer. That’s the finding of a recent study published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association . The rate of skin cancer for youths has tripled in the past 30 years, the study said, citing the popularity of tanning among young people and teenagers as a prominent cause.

These findings also coincide with the Skin Cancer Foundation’s report that women ages 25 to 29 seem to have a higher rate of skin cancer.

For generations, a tan has been thought to be a symbol of health and fashion. It seems trend-concious young people may pay little attention to the risk of skin cancer because they feel it doesn’t apply to them. A poll taken by the Dermatology Academy said that 61 percent of women under 18 think they are prettier with a tan and half think a tan looks healthy.

MU student Rebecca Sanders, 19, spends nearly four hours a day outside, but she uses sunscreen only when she’s at the beach or pool, she said.

Tristan Barnes, 22, doesn’t use sunscreen at all while walking around MU’s campus. Logan Dogles, 20, uses sunblock, but doesn’t necessarily think about skin cancer.

“I use sunblock, just to not get extra dark,” Dogles said.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed, according to the American Medical Association. More than one million cases of skin cancer in the United States are related to direct sun exposure.

Skin cancer begins when the cells that produce melanin, which pigments the skin, become damaged from prolonged exposure to UVA rays from the sun.

It is a misconception that tanning beds are safer than direct sun exposure, since they can be up to three times more powerful than natural rays. Tanning salons often rate their tanning services by level, depending on how dark of a tan is desired.

“For a level one, you have to use that tanning bed four times a week to get a noticeable difference,” said Jessie Yager, who works at a tanning salon.

“It is like spending a day at the beach without wearing sunblock,” Yager said.

After the World Health Organization recently recommended people under 18 years old avoid tanning salons as a precaution against skin cancer, 22 states approved laws requiring parent or guardian approval for a minor to use a tanning bed. Missouri does not have such a law.

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