NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Surviving deadly skin cancer doesn't prevent tanning worshippers from going unprotected and even lying in tanning beds, according to research by the Yale Cancer Center.
Failure to use sunscreen and using indoor tanning beds, which generate ultraviolet light to mimic sunlight, "significantly raise the risk of developing melanoma,' which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to a release.
"We would expect, we would hope that melanoma survivors would be very vigilant of protecting themselves from getting another melanoma because of the increased risk,' said Dr. Anees Chagpar, author of the study, by phone from the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington, where the results were presented Monday.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, with an estimated 76,690 new cases and 9,480 deaths in the United States expected this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.
"It does really blow your mind that here we have people that have survived one cancer we know how to prevent' who are risking a second instance. "So why aren't we doing better?' Chagpar said.
The Yale researchers used the 2010 National Health Interview Survey to analyze responses from 171 melanoma survivors. The survey found, according to the release:
- 27.3 percent reported never wearing sunscreen when outside on a sunny day for more than an hour.
- 15.4 percent reported rarely or never staying in the shade.
- 2.1 percent reported using an indoor tanning bed during the previous year.
Chagpar said while the percentage using tanning beds in the general population is higher, the numbers come out about the same when controlling for race, age and other factors.
Chagpar said there are three possible reasons melanoma survivors would ignore the best form of prevention: staying out of the sun and using sunblock when outside.
One may be that physicians could do "a better job of educating their patients' that their patients "should be proactive' to keep themselves protected. Another, particularly when it comes to melanoma survivors using tanning salons, is "that they're simply complacent and think that this could never happen to them again,' Chagpar said.
A third possibility is being studied by other researchers, including Susan Mayne, professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health and Yale Cancer Center.
"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,' Mayne, an author of Monday's study, said in the release.
Chagpar said she wasn't as knowledgeable about the addiction hypothesis, but said, "I would hope patients wouldn't be so vain as to think that a great-looking tan looks better than an ugly-looking melanoma.'
The General Assembly's Public Health Committee last week approved a bill making use of tanning beds illegal for anyone under 18. Now, a parent's permission is required.
Call senior writer Ed Stannard at 203-789-5743.