Wear your sunscreen, seek the shade, wear protective clothing and never, ever go
to a tanning salon. Despite decades of repetition, many of us fail to follow
that skin-saving advice -- and a new study shows that's true even for people who
have had the most serious form of skin cancer.
More than a quarter of people who have had melanoma say they never use
sunscreen, according to the study. Even greater numbers eschew hats and long
sleeves, and 2% say they have used a tanning bed in the past year, researchers
from Yale University say. They presented the data Monday at the annual meeting
of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C.
Cancer survivors are a bit more careful than the rest of us: 32% always wear
sunscreen, while just 17% of other adults do. Overall, they also are more likely
to wear hats and long sleeves and stay in the shade. But when compared with
others with the same age, race and insurance coverage, they differ significantly
only when it comes to sunscreen use, says researcher Anees Chagpar.
Chagpar, a cancer surgeon, says it is "shocking" that any still use indoor
The study of nearly 27,000 people included 171 who said they had a history of
melanoma, which, like other skin cancers, is linked to sun exposure and indoor
tanning. It will kill about 9,000 people in the USA this year, according to the
non-profit Skin Cancer Foundation. Survivors are nine times more likely than
other people to have melanoma in the future, so experts advise them to take
their skin protection seriously.
Previous studies suggest such vigilance is hard to maintain, though some do find
better compliance, says Mary Tripp, a behavior researcher at the University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. A possible weakness of the new
survey is that it relies on self-reported medical histories, which are sometimes
inaccurate, she says.
But she adds that she has interviewed melanoma survivors who have let down their
guard. "Survivors have told me that it is very important for them to maintain a
normal outdoor lifestyle."
You can do that but "be smart about it," says Ali Hendi, a dermatologist in
Chevy Chase, Md.