In a report file earlier this year by the U.S. Surgeon General it was revealed that there has been a 200 percent increase in melanoma cases in the U.S. since 1973. So alarming was this figure, the Surgeon General has essentially declared war against sunbathing and the use of indoor tanning facilities. The report also claimed that some $8 billion a year is being spent annually on the treatment for all forms of skin cancer in the U.S.
Surgeon General Boris Lushniak is urging all Americans to use effective sunscreen protection when they do sun bath outdoors, calling it critical in helping to fight all forms of skin cancer. Lushniak also condemns the use of tanning beds in the report and while his office can’t exactly pinpoint the exact reasons for three-fold increase in melanoma cases, he felt the time was ripe to address the situation.
“When the Surgeon General, who himself is a dermatologist, takes a stand against skin cancer it’s time for everyone to listen up. The steps to minimize the risks that need to be taken are simple,” began Long Island dermatologist Linda Conklin. “And tanning beds have just never made sense and, quite frankly, should be thought of the same way we now think of cigarettes.”
There have been numerous studies released of late on the dangers and growing problem skin cancer has become. Researchers at JAMA Dermatology recently released this these findings:
- The number of skin cancer cases due to tanning is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking; and
- In the U.S. alone, 419,254 cases of skin cancer can be attributed to indoor tanning. Out of this number, 6,199 are melanoma cases.
Additional warnings about the dangers of indoor tanning have come from the Melanoma Research Foundation as they claim exposure to tanning beds before age 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75 percent. Their researchers have also reported that Melanoma is now the deadliest form of skin cancer with 9,000 people dying each year from what they frequently refer as, “a mostly preventable disease.”
Wearable Tech to the Rescue!
And of course, the wearable tech market has weighed in on the fight as well as a new waterproof, disposable wristband, dubbed the Smartsun Monitor tells you when you’ve been in the sun too long. The band changes color from yellow to pink upon extended UV exposure, letting you know it’s time to seek some shade as too much longer and you’ll be getting a sunburn.
Seeing as the changing of the color of your skin to bright red is the warning people usually rely on, this product would appear to have a solid chance at success.
The color change is triggered by an acid-release agent, which detects ultraviolet light and a dye responding to pH levels in the indicator. This agent is essentially decomposed by the suns rays causing the change of color from yellow to pink.
The product’s creators, Scotland’s University of Strathclyde scientists, claim the wristband will work differently on different skin types as everyone has varying tolerance levels to the sun. They explain that a bracelet for someone with fair hair and light skin will actually change color more quickly than one for someone with dark hair and dark skin.
Add to this a new jewel-like wearable device called JUNE ($129), that can be worn as a bracelet or a brooch. JUNE contains UV sensors that monitor sun exposure throughout the day. The device pairs with a free iOS app to provide a daily sun forecast detailing the expected UV index, a measure of the expected risk of UV radiation from the sun on a scale from 0 to sun-scorched 15, as well as whether to pack sunscreen, sunglasses or a hat.
Yet another option is to turn your smartphone into a sun warning system. There’s a new app called sunZapp that was developed with funding from the National Cancer Institute. SunZap actually combines specific location-based information, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hour-by-hour UV Index forecast, with the user’s personal information (hair, eye color, skin tone, age, sun-sensitive medications and the type of clothing you are wearing for a specific outing).
The app shows how long it will take you to be sunburned on a particular day and gives specific precautions, such as “wear sunglasses, use sunscreen and cover up.” A timer in the app also counts down the minutes until it is time for you to reapply sunscreen.
Making skin cancer awareness and prevention a bigger part of daily life in the U.S. is apparently going to become a collaborative effort devices such as these are popping up daily now and dermatologists like Conklin are apparently digging in as well.
“We need to change the social norm with respect to tanning and shatter the myth that tanned skin is somehow a sign of health,” Conklin concluded.