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Skin Cancer On the Rise in California

SunBuddy Back Lotion Applicator - Skin Cancer Infographic

1,000 California residents will die of melanoma in 2014

Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. And one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is also on the rise. The American Cancer Society reported 76,690 new cases of melanoma in the United States in 2013. Eleven percent of those cases were in California, where melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in white residents. Los Angeles County sees about 1,300 new cases of melanoma each year.

The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 1,000 California residents will die of melanoma in 2014. The most startling skin cancer data is the growing incidence of melanoma in young people. In the past 40 years, melanoma in people aged 18 to 39 has grown by 800 percent among women and 400 percent among men.

It is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30 and is second only to breast cancer in women ages 30 to 34.

Yet, while the threat of lung cancer has helped steer people away from cigarettes, almost no progress has been shown in the risky behaviors that lead to skin cancer. Incidence of sunburn and indoor tanning have remained the same for over a decade.

Diary of a Indoor Tanner

Sarah Tiefenthaler of Venice, CA was one of those frequent indoor tanners. When she started going indoor tanning as a high school student in Tehachapi, California, it was just for special events like prom.

Her mom signed a permission slip to allow her to tan before she was 18. By the time she moved to Los Angeles for college, she was hooked. “In college it got out of hand,” Tiefenthaler said. “I got those unlimited monthly packages and kept going to get my money’s worth. I would go every other day. It was very relaxing and I liked the way my skin looked.”

Tiefenthaler was stepping out of a tanning bed when she first noticed something odd on her skin right below her bust. She saw a dermatologist who biopsied the lesion and determined that it was basal cell carcinoma, a lesser form of skin cancer. She was able to treat the area with an ointment. A year later, when Tiefenthaler was 26, she had a spot on her thigh biopsied.

This time it was melanoma. “I never thought I would be diagnosed at 26 with something life threatening,” she said. “I really believe that both sites came from my tanning bed usage. I went so frequently, and both were in spots where you wouldn’t normally get sun exposure, even in a bathing suit.” Luckily, the melanoma was still in its early stages and doctors were able to remove it through surgery.

She now has a five-inch scar along her upper thigh.

Tiefenthaler hasn’t had any skin cancer scares since 2010. She also hasn’t set foot in a tanning salon since then.

“I immediately stopped tanning and I will never go again,” she said. “And I am always really insistent on my loved ones about staying out of tanning beds.”

Source: American Cancer Society, EasyReaderNews