This issue marks the 30th anniversary of Sun & Skin News. When we launched in 1984, The Skin Cancer Foundation already strongly believed that ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from the sun was the major cause of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. We asserted that using daily sun protection — shade, sun-safe clothing (including wide-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses), and sunscreen — would vastly reduce the risk of developing these skin cancers, while regularly examining one’s skin head to toe and having a yearly professional skin exam would help detect skin cancers at an early, curable stage. At that time, people were totally uninformed about these things, and though I’d seen a great deal of evidence in my own practice, the definitive studies did not yet exist to prove our claims.
The Skin Cancer Foundation was also the first organization to maintain that adequate sunscreen protection required an SPF (sun protection factor) of a minimum of 15 daily. Unfortunately, few sunscreens available then provided an adequate SPF against UVB.
How times change! In the intervening years, both UVB and ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation from the sun have been proven to cause skin cancer in humans — including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In the past few years, research has also confirmed that indoor UV tanning is at least as dangerous as solar UV, and possibly more dangerous.
Our original recommendations about sun protection and skin exams have proven to be true. Recent landmark studies have shown that regular sunscreen use can reduce melanoma incidence by 50 percent, and that regular total-body skin exams by physicians can reduce melanoma deaths by half. Sunscreens are vastly improved today, with higher SPFs providing excellent UVB protection and new ingredients providing much more complete UVA protection. We also now have access to both everyday and specially made clothing that is virtually impervious to sun exposure.
In short, science has confirmed our original assertions. The public is more aware of skin cancer dangers than ever, thanks to ongoing educational campaigns. The Foundation now has the foremost skin cancer website in the world, SkinCancer.org, with 600 pages of skin cancer content that reach millions of people annually. Facebook and Twitter add to our outreach.
Nonetheless, skin cancer incidence is still skyrocketing. When we printed our first issue, 400,000 skin cancer cases were being diagnosed annually in the US; today 3.5 million cases occur annually. The public’s behavior has to reflect its improved knowledge; people are still going out in the sun unprotected, and more than a million a year still go to tanning parlors. We will continue doing our very best to discourage these harmful habits while keeping you up to date on the prevention, detection and treatment of the world’s most common cancer.
Published on March 27, 2013