Melanoma on the Rise; What You Can Do

Skin cancer is largely preventable; however, new cases of melanoma, the most deadly of skin cancers, continue to rise at a faster rate than the seven most common cancers.

"Any change in your skin, whether burned or slightly tanned, is a sign of ultraviolet radiation damage," said Drusilla Hufford, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 's Stratospheric Protection Division and council co-chair. "The good news is you can protect yourself and your family members from too much sun, the main cause of skin cancer, by taking simple steps like putting on sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a T-shirt." "Many people believe skin cancer occurs after a lifetime of exposure, and yet, melanoma is the second most common form of cancer for young adults 15-29 years of age," said Dr. Henry Lim, council co-chair. "In the last 30 years, the number of women under age 40 diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma has more than doubled while the squamous cell carcinoma rate has also increased significantly."

EPA 's SunWise Program recognizes the important role parents play in protecting their children from too much sun. Sunburns in childhood are associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.

The agency is encouraging schools to participate by pledging to incorporate sun safety.

EPA recommends some simple ways to stay safe in the sun:

  • Slip on a shirt.
  • Slop on sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).
  • Slap on a hat.
  • Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.

Skin cancer from UV radiation is the most common of all cancers in the United States. More people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined. UV radiation is a carcinogen whether it comes from the sun or an artificial light source.

There is a misperception that people of color are not at risk of getting skin cancer. While the risk for people of color is not as high, skin cancer, including melanoma, affects all skin types. Skin cancer is often detected in people with darker skin after it is too late, so it is important that people of color are safe in the sun and see a doctor if they notice any changes with their skin.

EPA is also targeting the 10 states with the highest number of new melanoma cases by releasing state-specific skin cancer fact sheets for Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Additionally, Salt Lake County, Utah, will become a SunWise Community, the newest member of a national program of eight communities that encourage sun safety on the part of their citizens.