a woman leans out of a poster to hand some young people a bottle of sunblock

A Step in the Right Direction: Melanoma Rates Falling!

Raising skin cancer awareness works. Let me say that again, because this is important. Raising skin cancer awareness WORKS.

What are the melanoma rates among young people?

Know how I know? Because in the United States, cases of melanoma are falling among young people (those younger than 30). Overall, cases of melanoma have increased, especially among people over the age of 40, but from 2006 to 2015, the number of cases among younger people dropped more than 23%. These findings were presented in a study published November 13, 2019 in the JAMA Dermatology medical journal.1

Not perfect melanoma news

While the rates of melanoma in younger people are dropping, this still isn’t perfect news, as young adult women have twice the risk of melanoma as young adult men. Too many young adult women still feel that they have to be tan to look cute, or need a sun-kissed glow so their outfits look better.

The greatest risk factor for melanoma is UV exposure, from either sunlight or a tanning bed. Older generations were brought up in a time where the dangers of over-exposure to the sun and the use of tanning beds weren’t fully known, and they definitely weren’t talked about. I’m raising my hand here, as this describes me.

When I was younger, we played outside for hours and hours, but didn’t wear sunscreen. Our “sunscreen” was actually SPF 2 or 4 suntan lotion, not really effective against sunburns. Girls spent afternoons on a silver reflective blanket, covered in baby oil, desperately seeking a deep, dark tan. Then, the tanning bed was introduced to us as being much safer and better for us than lying in the sun. Older generations are also paying the price for their lack of knowledge and lack of good sun habits when they were young.

But it is still darn good

But the good news for younger people is there is more information readily available about the dangers of sun exposure and tanning beds. There is sun protective clothing available. Sunscreen (and not just suntan lotion) is available. Knowledge is power, and we have better access to ways to protect us from skin cancer.

We seem to definitely be headed in the right direction given the drop in melanoma diagnoses for younger people, but there is plenty more work to be done. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma will cause an estimated 7,230 deaths in the United States this year. That is 7,230 too many. And about 96,480 new melanomas will be diagnosed, which is 96,480 too many.

Keep speaking up about melanoma

So, please keep telling your story. Being that parent/friend/brother/sister who continually reminds others to apply sunscreen. Be the poster child for good sun safety practices. Keep spreading the word and raising awareness about skin cancer, because it’s WORKING!

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