April 8th, 2013
01:10 PM ET

Some melanoma patients don't protect skin

Some melanoma patients may not be as cautious as they should be, according to a new study.  Doctors have found that more than a quarter of those with melanoma  – the deadliest form of skin cancer  – do not use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, and many are still use tanning beds.  

“We were shocked," says Dr. Anees Chagpar, associate professor in the Department of Surgery at Yale School of Medicine and lead author of the study, “although we found that melanoma survivors did better than the general public at protecting their skin from the sun, we also found that more than a quarter of melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen. That blew my mind."

The research was presented the annual meeting of the American Academy of Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, usually caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays.  The five-year survival rate for early-stage melanoma is high, but anyone with the diagnosis has to be careful about protecting their skin.

Study: Frequent tanning-bed use triples melanoma risk

Investigators looked at data on melanoma protection taken from a large National Health Interview Survey conducted three years ago.

Of the more than 27,000 people who responded to the survey, 171 had a history of melanoma.  And although those survivors were more prone to stay in the shade and wear protective clothing than those who did not have melanoma, 27% of them said they never wore sunscreen when outdoors on a sunny day. Most disturbing to researchers, 2% of these survivors said they still used tanning booths.

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Dr. Howard Brooks, dermatologist and director of Georgetown Skin in Washington, said. “I have patients with the diagnosis of skin cancer, including melanoma, that do not wear SPF on a daily basis.”

“In my patient population,” Brooks continued, “I find it is the younger patients that are not as compliant with SPF after a diagnosis. I think young people still feel that they are invincible. They still want to look good for the beach or summer, so they will risk getting a tan.”

Study authors believe dermatologists need to stress to their patients the dangers of exposure to the sun and tanning bed rays.  Doctors should make strong pleas to melanoma patients to use sun protection and avoid artificial tanning because melanoma can recur and lead to bigger problems.  But investigators say the bigger question is: Are patients listening?

“Once you get melanoma you have a much higher risk of getting it again, in some other area.  It’s important to be vigilant when it comes to staying out of the sun," notes Chagpar. “We can’t help but wonder if patients are getting the message and just don’t seem to care, or perhaps tanning could be more addictive to some.   And that’s a whole new issue that we need to look at."

More: N.J. bans minors from tanning beds

soundoff (260 Responses)
  1. Jrad

    Not all that surprising. There are a lot of lung cancer patients that still smoke.

    April 8, 2013 at 18:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cyn

      You can't compare this to lung cancer patients continuing with smoking. That is a chemical dependency as well as a psychological one. Tanning after being diagnosed with melanoma is nothing more than STUPIDITY, or possibly a deep-rooted psychological problem combined with stupidity.

      April 9, 2013 at 09:33 | Report abuse |
  2. K

    Just discovered and removed a melanoma. 1) doc says it has nothing to do with the sun, it's genetic. Shows up in places that have never seen sun. True, my father's side is all cancer. I guess sun can trigger it but it's not the only reason it occurs. 2) it's on the back of my calf. I don't even remember getting a burn there in my life. Matter of fact, aside from walking to and from the car, I'm not even in the sun. I haven't thought about tanning in 25 years. So will I start using sunscreen on my legs? What's the point? Apparently, the damage was done in my teens and 20s and there's not a thing I can do about it now. If I protect now, gee, maybe in 25 years it'll make a difference...if I live that long.

    April 9, 2013 at 13:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. canaryinthecoalmine

    Why would people instinctively fear something that can be sold to children, even after a cancer diagnosis? Something Mercola (who sells tanning beds) vigorously promotes Slash Your Risk of Cancer – by Breaking This Cardinal Rule
    Do Tanning Beds Really Cause Melanoma?

    Governments should respect medical opinion and ban minors from tanning beds. Protect public health!

    April 9, 2013 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. And In Other News

    Some doctors smoke. So STFU!!!!

    April 11, 2013 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. cali girl

    Part of the problem with skin cancer, the doctors will tell you the damage was done long before the cancer shows up. Also you can get skin cancer in places that have never seen the sun.
    You can't do anything to reverse the damage. The preaching of wearing sun screen 24-7 is because they are finding out now that tanning 20 years ago will have lasted effects into the rest of your life.

    April 11, 2013 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
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  7. Davis Hase

    Usually, sunburn symptoms continue to get worse in the first 24 to 36 hours after the sunburn. Sunburns start to go away over 3 to 5 days. Severe sunburns can be serious in babies, small children, and older adults because of their sensitive skin and their high risk for other problems.:;`:

    So long

    July 5, 2013 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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