Surgeon General Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer


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Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH

Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, Acting Surgeon General

As both a medical doctor and a public health official, I see that now is the time for a comprehensive approach to prevent skin cancer, bringing together community partners, business leaders, government agencies, and individuals for a common cause.

—Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, Acting Surgeon General

On July 29, 2014, the Surgeon General issued a Call to Action urging immediate action steps to prevent skin cancer. The report encourages increased awareness of the disease and calls for immediate and collaborative actions to reduce its risk.

Nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the United States each year, estimated to cost $8.1 billion annually. According to the report, the rates of skin cancer continue to increase in the United States and worldwide despite efforts to address risk factors such as inadequate protection from the sun and intentional tanning behaviors. More than 63,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer and the most common type of cancer among U.S. teens and young adults, are diagnosed in the United States each year.1

“While those with lighter skin are more susceptible, anyone can get skin cancer—and it can be serious, even deadly,” writes Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health. The report emphasizes universal susceptibility to the disease, encouraging all to understand and implement strategies to reduce risk. More than 400,000 cases of skin cancer, 6,000 of which are melanomas, are estimated to be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year.

“It’s important to shatter the myth that tanned skin is a sign of health… Tanned skin is damaged skin. Understanding the risk of UV exposure is crucial to protecting ourselves and our loved ones,” Dr. Koh said. The report provides a series of comprehensive action steps to increase awareness of the disease and its risk factors.

Partners in Prevention From All Sectors

Furthermore, the Call to Action urges partners in prevention from all sectors across the United States, including the business, health care, education, government and nonprofit sectors in addition to families and individuals, to address skin cancer as a major public health problem and to do more to prevent the disease.

“As both a medical doctor and a public health official, I see that now is the time for a comprehensive approach to prevent skin cancer, bringing together community partners, business leaders, government agencies, and individuals for a common cause,” said Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, Rear Admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service and Acting Surgeon General.

The report recommends, for instance, that communities provide shade in recreational and play areas, that businesses increase availability of sun protection to outdoor works, that policy makers promote policies for shade planning in land use development, and that health providers counsel patients on the importance of using sun protection.

FDA Weighs In

In response, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, issued a statement regarding recent steps taken by the FDA designed to allow consumers to better understand the harmful effects of exposure from the sun and from indoor tanning.  According to the Statement, consumers today can rely on more accurate information on the labels of all sunscreen products on the market, particularly in claims regarding “Broad Spectrum” and resistance to water. Furthermore, the FDA recently changed its risk classification for sunlamp products, and imposed increased regulatory controls on these products including age restrictions and boxed warnings. See the full text of this statement below. ■

Reference

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2014.

 


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