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CDC Report: Rates of New Melanomas Have Doubled Over Last Three Decades

Health care providers urged to counsel patients on safety measures

Melanoma rates doubled between 1982 and 2011, but comprehensive skin-cancer prevention programs could prevent 20% of new cases between 2020 and 2030, according to the June 2015 Vital Signs report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer, the report says. More than 90% of melanoma skin cancers are due to skin-cell damage from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Melanoma rates increased from 11.2 per 100,000 in 1982 to 22.7 per 100,000 in 2011.

The report notes that melanoma is responsible for more than 9,000 skin-cancer deaths each year in the U.S. In 2011, more than 65,000 melanoma skin cancers were diagnosed. By 2030, according to the report, effective community skin cancer prevention programs could prevent an estimated 230,000 melanoma skin cancers and save $2.7 billion in treatment costs. Successful programs feature community efforts that combine education, mass-media campaigns, and policy changes to increase skin protection for children and adults.

Researchers reviewed data from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (SEER) to determine the increase in melanoma rates.

“The rate of people getting melanoma continues to increase every year compared to the rates of most other cancers, which are declining,” said Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “If we take action now, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of new cases of skin cancers, including melanoma, and save billions of dollars in medical costs.”

This Vital Signs report highlights recommendations for communities from the Community Guide for Preventive Services. Communities can increase shade on playgrounds, at public pools, and other public spaces; promote sun protection in recreational areas; encourage employers, childcare centers, schools, and colleges to educate individuals about sun safety and skin protection; and restrict the availability and use of indoor tanning by minors. The CDC encourages everyone to protect their skin with protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen, and to seek shade outdoors.

Moreover, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that physicians and other health care providers counsel people 10 to 24 years of age with fair skin on the dangers of UV rays and on how to prevent skin cancer. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides for such behavioral counseling with no cost-sharing.

Sources: CDC; June 2, 2015; and Vital Signs; June 2015.

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