Melanoma survivors are nine times more likely to develop a new melanoma than people who have never had the disease, yet many of them still don’t practice sun protection. More than a quarter of all melanoma survivors don’t use sunscreen, and a sizable percentage don’t seek shade outdoors, according to research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s Annual Meeting 2013.
Studying data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, Anees B. Chagpar, MD, and colleagues discovered that while melanoma survivors are more likely to wear sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and hats than the general public, 15 percent don’t seek the shade when outdoors, and over 27 percent never wear sunscreen even when outside on a sunny day for more than an hour. “That blew my mind,” said Dr. Chagpar. “For many people with melanoma, sun exposure is a major risk factor for recurrence, and sun protection may reduce their chances of getting melanoma again.”
The researchers were also surprised to find that over 2 percent of melanoma survivors used a tanning bed in the past year. This statistic is alarming, since a single indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent; it is even more dangerous for those who have had melanoma.
“We know now that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better” about UV protection, said Dr. Chagpar. “This study speaks to what we could do to educate them on how to prevent recurrence.”
Close to 90 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun and tanning beds. The disease will kill an estimated 9,480 people in the US this year.