Young Adults Are Flirting with Skin Cancer

Published on May 11, 2012

Young adults are boosting their odds of developing skin cancer by engaging in high-risk behaviors, according to new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute. According to Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), 50 percent of people aged 18-29 surveyed by the CDC reported at least one sunburn in 2010. This is a worrying statistic, since a person’s risk of developing potentially deadly melanomas doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation tanning also increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma, and tanning is particularly popular among young adults, especially white women: MMWR also reported that approximately 30 percent of white women aged 18-25 tanned indoors at least once in 2010. Tanners who visit a salon just four times a year increase their risk of melanoma by 11 percent, and their risk of the non-melanoma skin cancers basal and squamous cell carcinoma by 15 percent.

These statistics are supported by a recent Mayo Clinic study, which found that over the past 40 years melanoma rates have increased by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men ages 18-39. The authors of the study believe this increase is linked to the use of tanning beds, and that incidence will continue to rise in this population. Melanoma is expected to kill 9,180 people in the US this year alone.

You can help reduce your risk of developing both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers by incorporating sun protection into you daily routine. A sun protection regimen should include seeking shade, covering up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, as well as daily sunscreen use.

Learn about our Skin Cancer Prevention Guidelines