Health experts blame tanning beds for the rise in skin cancer rates

By KBJR News 1

July 31, 2014 Updated Jul 31, 2014 at 9:55 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- National and State healthcare specialists are calling for urgent attention to the battle against skin cancer.

Nearly 5,000,000 people in the U.S. are treated each year for skin cancer, and health officials say those numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

The American Cancer Society is particularly concerned about products used to enhance the sun's effect.

"The level of public knowledge needs to be increased. Parents don't know, kids don't know, people don't know the danger of using these products," said Matt Schafer of the American Cancer Society.

Health specialists say there has been a huge increase in melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

They blame that increase, not just on sun enhancement products but also on the increasing use of tanning beds.

"It's one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer among people ages 20 to 49 years old," said Schafer.

Northland tanning salon owner, Dawn Johnson, says if you tan it's important to do so in moderation, especially for the younger generations.

"We limit the time you can go. We know how many hours are on the lamps. So you may come in and want to do 20 minutes, and we'll say no we're going to put you in this bed for ten minutes," said Johnson.

On July 1st a new law took effect in Minnesota banning teens, under the age of 18, from using tanning beds in an effort to slow the rise of dangerous skin cancers.

Tanning salon owners say they hope to see more teens using airbrush tanning, now that this new law has been put in place.

"It's much quicker. You don't have to tan for two weeks or a month to get color," said Johnson.

But many young adults and teens say they'd rather use natural light to get some color.

"If it's summer time I'd much rather be outside than in a tanning bed," said Jessica Branning, a frequent beach goer.

Health experts say, all too often, people don't use sunscreen while outside, or anything to protect their skin, for that matter.

"Most of the time I do nothing. Every once and a while if I can tell it seems to be a hotter day I might put a little bit of sunscreen on my nose and that's about it," said Joey Sellman, another frequent beach goer.

Dermatologists stress the importance of using sunscreen in conjunction with other sun protection behaviors to minimize the risk of getting skin cancer.

The surgeon general's tips for ideal sun protection include wearing tightly woven protective clothing, a hat providing adequate shade to the whole head, and seeking shade whenever possible.

Elsa Robins