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Many US young adults at risk of skin cancer

Updated: 2012-05-11 10:00
( Xinhua)

WASHINGTON - Despite warnings about the dangers of excess sun exposure, many US young adults still get sunburned or use indoor tanning beds, which are increasing their risk for developing skin cancer, according to two studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute.

One study, of people aged 18-29, found that 50 percent reported at least one sunburn in the past year, despite an increase in protective behaviors such as sunscreen use, seeking shade, and wearing long clothing to the ankles. Another report found that indoor tanning is common among young adults, with the highest rates of indoor tanning among white women aged 18-21 years (32 percent) and 22-25 years (30 percent).

Both reports evaluated data from the National Health Interview Survey's Cancer Control Supplement. They were published Thursday in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"More public health efforts, including providing shade and sunscreen in recreational settings, are needed to raise awareness of the importance of sun protection and sunburn prevention to reduce the burden of skin cancer," said Marcus Plescia, director of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. "We must accelerate our efforts to educate young adults about the dangers of indoor tanning to prevent melanoma as this generation ages."

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from indoor tanning equipment is the most important preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Indoor tanning before age 35 increases a person's risk of getting melanoma by 75 percent. Sunburn indicates too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

To reduce the risk of skin cancer, the CDC recommends:

Stay in the shade, especially from 10 am to 2 pm.

Wear clothing to protect exposed skin.

Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade the face, head, ears and neck.

Wear wraparound sunglasses that block most ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Use sunscreen with sun protective factor 15 or higher that blocks both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.

Don't use indoor tanning.