January 2016: Skin Cancer Prevention

Skin Cancer Can Happen Any Time of the Year

Learn to be preventative, not reactive

As an aquatic professional, have you given much thought to what you can do to help prevent skin cancer? It is the most common cancer in the United States, yet most cases are preventable. Many risk factors can contribute to skin cancer, but one scary stat the CDC reported on in its “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” is that skin cancer has tripled since the early 1970s, even though we have more ways, better ways, to prevent it from happening.

There are three common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Even though melanoma is the least common of the three listed, it causes the most deaths. In 2012 about 67,000 new melanoma cases and 9,000 deaths were reported in the United States alone. Rates of melanoma occurrences are approximately 60% higher among men than women above the age of 50. The majority of these cases could be prevented. States across the nation are stepping up and battling skin cancer and you can help.

Four Steps for Skin Cancer Prevention

  1. Increase sun protection in outdoor settings – Are your facilities outside? Do you have enough shaded areas? Pools can reduce ultraviolet (UV) overexposure by increasing shade and providing sunscreen at their facilities. A town in Boston, Mass. has provided 30 free sunscreen dispensers in citywide parks. Have you considered adding a few sunscreen dispensers at your facility?
  2. Provide individuals with the information needed to make informed, healthy choices about UV exposure – The majority of the general public doesn’t realize there is widely available information about the UV index. When the public enters your facility or pool area, prompt them with effective messages on sun protection and when the UV index is high that day. Messaging can include: how to remain safe against heavy UV rays, suggesting repeated application of sunscreen, wearing wide-brimmed hats, and taking breaks from being directly in the sun.
  3. Promote policies that advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer – Be sure that any of your rules at the facility do not hinder the patron’s ability to prevent skin cancer. For example, many schools don’t allow students to possess sunscreen or hats, even if only used during recess.
  4. Reduce harm from indoor tanning – Did you know that indoor tanning is classified as a known human carcinogen by the World Health Organization AND the US Department of Health and Human Services? Many cities, countries, states, and the District of Columbia have now banned the use of indoor tanning beds for persons younger than the age of 18.

The Most at Risk for Skin Cancer Are...

Race, skin type, and other genetic traits contribute largely to the risk of skin cancer. The risk of melanoma in Caucasians is approximately 25 times higher than the rate in blacks and six times higher than the rate in Hispanics.

Genetic Risk Factors for Skin Cancer

  • Lighter, natural skin color
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Dysplastic nevi or a large number of common moles
  • Skin that:
    • Burns
    • Freckles
    • Reddens easily

Stats on Sunburn

  • 37% of persons in the US report getting sunburned each year
  • The highest rate, 65%, are among white adults under the age of 30
  • Among persons reporting sunburn, 12% report four or more sunburns in the past year

Stats on Protection Methods

  • About 67% of men and 73% of women report using at least one method of sun protection when outdoors for more than an hour
    • Protective methods range from sunscreen, hats, shade, or protective clothing
    • Only 21% of men and 41% of women report wearing sunscreen when outdoors for more than an hour on a sunny day
  • Only 10% of high school students report wearing sunscreen when outdoors for more than an hour on a sunny day

Tanning Beds

  • It is estimated that 11.6 million persons in the US (which is one in three white women between the ages of 16-25) tan indoors each year
  • The US FDA recently reclassified tanning devices to better reflect their risk factor.
  • Devices are now required to include warnings that state that their use is contraindicated for persons under the age of 18

Future Impact of Preventive Efforts

An estimated total of $8.1 billion is spent each year on treatment for all skin cancers combined in the United States, and the costs are only going to increase. Without a community-wide intervention program, the annual cost of treating newly diagnosed melanoma cases is estimated to increase a whopping 250% from 2011-2030. What can comprehensive skin cancer prevention programs do? When sun exposure is reduced, sun protection is facilitated, sunburns are prevented, and indoor tanning is reduced; $2.7 billion in costs for new melanoma cases can be prevented annually. That’s a lot of money!

Australia has been a trendsetter in leading the way of country wide prevention programs. Australia has been estimated to save AU$2.30 for every AU$1 invested! Investing and becoming a part of a nationwide skin cancer prevention program can only benefit the country and your patrons. An implementation of a community wide program in the United States has the potential to annually avert nearly 230,000 new melanoma cases and prevent $2.7 billion in costs for newly diagnosed melanomas.

Implementation and Impact of Prevention Strategies

To learn more about what real cities and states are doing across the country to combat skin cancer as a preventative measure, read the CDC’s full Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: CDC Grand Rounds: Prevention and Control of Skin Cancer. But everyone in the aquatic field should check out the CDC’s Sun Safety campaign which includes this poster about skin cancer prevention.

To learn more about what your facility can do to keep your patrons safe check out Chapter 14: Facility Safety in the National Swimming Pool Foundation Pool & Spa Operator™ Handbook today! It is available in both English and Spanish. And while you’re at it, you can also take the Pool Operator Primer™ (POP) course to get all of your operator needs. The POP course includes the Handbook as well.