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State of the Science on Melanoma Prevention and Screening

Melanoma is on the rise in the United States, but we could prevent most cases.

Although incidence rates (new cases) of most cancers are going down overall, the incidence rates of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are still going up. However, most cases of melanoma could be prevented. Research has clearly shown that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation raises melanoma risk.

Melanoma prevention includes not getting too much sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning—both sources of UV radiation. But studies show that children and adults are still not protected enough from the sun, and that some groups, including young women, are still using indoor tanning.

Key Findings

  • It is critical to reach young people with messages on sun protection and to discourage indoor tanning, according to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer.
  • We need to learn more about how parents protect their children from too much exposure from UV, and how we can help parents better protect their children.
  • An increasing number of states are banning indoor tanning for minors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed a nationwide ban on indoor tanning by people younger than 18.
  • There is not enough evidence to recommend skin cancer screening for most people, but people with a history of skin cancer or those who are at higher risk should talk to their doctor.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that health care providers counsel children, teens, and young adults with fair skin about minimizing their UV exposure to lower their risk for skin cancer.
  • Although melanoma incidence is rising, new treatments can help extend life and improve outcomes for people with advanced melanoma.
  • Communities can use multicomponent interventions—a combination of different ways—to help people protect themselves from the sun, such as starting educational campaigns, making sunscreen widely available, and increasing shade in public places.

Citation

Tripp MK, Watson M, Balk SJ, Swetter SM, Gershenwald JE. State of the science on prevention and screening to reduce melanoma incidence and mortality: the time is now. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2016;66(6):461–479.

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