WASHINGTON (AP & NBC News) — The acting U.S. surgeon general is asking Americans to give up their love of sunbathing and indoor tanning beds, citing an alarming 200 percent jump in the number of deadly melanoma cases diagnosed since 1973.
Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak says in a new report that nearly 5 million people in the U.S. are treated for all forms of skin cancer each year at a cost of $8 billion.
He says that state and local officials should do more to help people cover up, such as providing more shade at parks, and that colleges should discourage indoor tanning beds on their campuses, much as they would tobacco use.
Currently 63,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and of those 9,000 die. Experts say UV radiation from sunlight or tanning beds is the biggest cause.
Doctors say consumers need to be vigilant about using a broad spectrum sunscreen and reapply it every few hours.
Lushniak also supports legislation banning teenagers from visiting tanning salons.
"There're ten states out there now who have put in legislation that bans the use of indoor tanning facilities for those under the age of 18. We certainly support those measures to be able to protect the youth from a known carcinogen," he says.
The Indoor Tanning Association disputes what many experts say, stating: "There is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure either from the sun or a sunbed."
Lushniak says skin cancer rates won't change until American attitudes do. Tanned skin, he warns, is damaged skin.