Surgeon general issues call to action to prevent skin cancer

July 29, 2014

The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a statement citing skin cancer as a “major public health problem” and noting the danger of indoor tanning and sun exposure.

The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a statement citing skin cancer as a “major public health problem” and noting the danger of indoor tanning and sun exposure.

Acting Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., who is a dermatologist, called for both individuals and institutions to do more to help bring down escalating rates of skin cancer. Nearly 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancers each year, at a cost of more than $8 billion, Dr. Lushniak notes in the call to action. In addition to encouraging individuals to take sun protective measures, Dr. Lushniak also pointed to the danger of indoor tanning devices - which were classified as class 1 carcinogens by the World Health Organization in 2009 - and advised consumers to avoid them.

“Although reducing UV overexposure from the sun can be challenging for some people, UV exposure from indoor tanning is completely avoidable,” he notes in the call to action.

The call to action includes five goals for increasing skin cancer awareness and reducing its risk:

  • increase opportunities for sun protection outdoors;

  • provide people with information they need to make informed, healthy choices about UV radiation exposure;

  • promote policies that advance the national goal of skin cancer prevention;

  • reduce harms from indoor tanning; and

The announcement was welcomed by a number of physician groups and organizations focused on skin cancer awareness and prevention. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) joined the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the national call to action. AADA President Brett Coldiron, M.D., praised the Surgeon General’s office for highlighting methods individuals can take to help prevent skin cancer.

“The American public needs to be aware that the dangers of ultraviolet radiation exposure are real,” Dr. Coldiron said in a news release. “Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays - from the sun and indoor tanning devices - is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.”

Additionally, the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) lauded the public health effort.

“Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and - unlike most other common cancers - melanoma rates are on the rise across demographics in this country,” MRA President and CEO Wendy Selig said in a statement. “The Surgeon General’s Call to Action is an important step in raising the public’s awareness of melanoma and committing our nation’s health agencies to addressing this major public health problem.”