Washington, D.C. – Acting Surgeon General Dr. Boris D. Lushniak admonished the government to take action to stem the rising rate of skin cancer among Americans. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of the cancer and the number of people with this form has increased two fold over the period of 1973 to 2011. While skin cancer’s 9,000 annual deaths are relatively small when compared with lung cancer’s 160,000 annual fatalities, Dr. Lushniak confirmed that the rate is rising rapidly. Over the past three decades the rate of skin cancer has risen so much that it now accounts for more cases than all other types of cancer combined. It is also presents a drain on the economy with 5 million cases being treated annually at total annual cost of $8.1 billion. While skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, it is now the most common form of cancer diagnosed among teenagers and young adults.
What is driving the rate of skin cancer to increase so much? The answer is quite simple: tanning beds. Back in May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it would require tanning beds to display the black box health warning which is the agency’s strongest caution. The black box warning is used on tobacco products which are the chief cause of the 160,000 annual lung cancer deaths. So the gesture of a black box label is largely symbolic and vapid. However, at this point one in every three white women from the ages of 16 and 25 use tanning beds at least one time annually. It is estimated that tanning beds are a major contributing factor in hundreds of thousands of new skin cancer diagnosis annually of which 6,000 are melanoma. Predictably, the Indoor Tanning Association, like the tobacco industry, has denied that there is any science linking their product to cancer.