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National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month -- May 1997

May has been designated National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month by the American Academy of Dermatology. Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, the likelihood of cure is high if lesions are detected and treated at an early stage. Skin cancer is more common among persons with lightly pigmented skin (1). Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas affect men more often than women (2). Among persons aged less than 40 years, women are more likely than men to develop melanoma, and among those aged greater than or equal to 40 years, men are more likely to develop melanoma (3). Exposure to sunlight and excessive ultraviolet radiation increases the risk for skin cancer. The risk for melanoma later in life is substantially increased following one or more blistering sunburns during childhood or the teenage years.

CDC's National Skin Cancer Prevention Education Program is designed to help achieve the national health objectives for the year 2000 for skin cancer prevention. One objective is to increase to greater than or equal to 60% the proportion of persons of all ages who limit sun exposure, use sunscreens and protective clothing when exposed to sunlight, and avoid exposure to artificial sources of ultraviolet light (e.g., sun lamps and tanning booths) (objective 16.9).

Parents, health-care providers, schools, and community organizations can develop and provide strategies that reinforce sun-protection behaviors (e.g., staying out of direct sunlight or timing outdoor activities for hours when ultraviolet light is less intense) and change attitudes about exposure to the sun (e.g., the opinion that a person looks more attractive with a tan).

Information about skin cancer is available from the National Cancer Institute, telephone (800) 422-6237, and from the American Cancer Society, telephone (800) 227-2345. Information about CDC's cancer prevention and control program is available from the World-Wide Web at


  1. Harras A, Edwards BK, Blot WJ, Ries LAG, eds. Cancer rates and risks. 4th ed. Bethesda, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1996; DHHS publication no. (NIH)96-691.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Burning issues: press conference report. Schaumburg, Illinois: American Academy of Dermatology, May 2, 1994.

  3. Kosary CL, Ries LAG, Miller BA, Hankey BF, Harras A, Edwards BK, eds. SEER cancer statistics review, 1973-1992: tables and graphs. Bethesda, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1995; DHHS publication no. (NIH)96-2789.

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