Melanoma survivors still forego sunscreen and use tanning beds

Some melanoma survivors continue to use indoor tanning beds and forego using sunscreen, according to Yale Cancer Center research that was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2013, in Washington, D.C.

Both unprotected sun exposure and indoor tanning beds are known to significantly raise the risk of developing melanoma, a life-threatening form of skin cancer. And yet, according to Yale researchers, some survivors do not take precautions even after treatment for the disease.

The Yale team analyzed self-reported data from 171 survivors who responded to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Although most were taking precautions to protect themselves from further melanoma risk, a significant number were not. Among the findings:

  • 15.4% report rarely or never staying in the shade.
  • 27.3% report never wearing sunscreen when outside on a sunny day for more than an hour.
  • 2.1% report using an indoor tanning bed during the previous year.

“We know that sun exposure and indoor tanning increase the risk of developing melanoma, so it's incredibly disturbing that even after getting the disease once, some survivors continue these practices which would put them at greater risk of getting it again,” said author Dr. Anees Chagpar, associate professor of surgical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven.

“These results indicate a clear need for more effective interventions to reduce sun exposure and indoor tanning among melanoma survivors. That some continue to engage in risky behaviors after a melanoma diagnosis may indicate possible tanning addiction, which we are now investigating in additional research,” said co-author Susan Mayne, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and Yale Cancer Center.

Other authors are Jeremy Puthumana, Leah Ferrucci, Donald Lannin, and Brenda Cartmel of Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Public Health, and Yale Cancer Center.

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