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Sun-lovers see spike in melanoma

WASHINGTON -- Stop sunbathing and using indoor tanning beds, the acting U.S. surgeon general warned in a report released Tuesday that cites an alarming 200 percent jump in deadly melanoma cases since 1973.

The report blames a generation of sun worshipping for the US$8 billion spent to treat all forms of skin cancer each year.

Rear Adm. Boris Lushniak said state and local officials need to do more to help people cover up, such as providing more shade at parks and sporting events. Schools should encourage kids to wear hats and sunscreen and schedule outdoor activities when the sun is low in the sky. And colleges and universities should eliminate indoor tanning beds on campus much as they would prohibit tobacco use, he added.

“We need more states and institutions on board with these policies that discourage or restrict indoor tanning by our youth,” Lushniak said. “Tanned skin is damaged skin.”

The surgeon general's “call to action” plan is part of a broader push this year by government officials and public health advocates to raise awareness on what they say has become a major public health problem. While other cancers such as lung cancer are decreasing, skin cancer is rising rapidly. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year. And the number of Americans with skin cancer in the past three decades eclipse the number of all other cancers combined.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer with 9,000 people dying each year from the mostly preventable disease.

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