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Some Melanoma Survivors Still Use Tanning Beds, Skip Sunscreen

April 8, 2013
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  • Most melanoma survivors engage in more sun protection practices than the general public.
  • More than 2 percent of melanoma survivors use tanning beds.
  • Twenty-seven percent of melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Although most survivors of melanoma take precautions to protect their skin from the sun and further occurrences of cancer, data presented at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10, revealed that more than a quarter do not use sunscreen when outside for more than an hour, and more than 2 percent still use tanning beds.

“We know that melanoma is a malignancy prevalent in our population, and we know that 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,” said Anees B. Chagpar, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of surgery at Yale School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn., and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. “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.”

Chagpar and colleagues evaluated data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, an annual, cross-sectional survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States that asks questions on a wide range of health topics. They focused on data collected on self-reported history of melanoma, sun protection practices and indoor tanning.

Of 27,120 adults, 171 had a prior history of melanoma. Researchers found that compared with those individuals who reported no history of melanoma, survivors were more likely to stay in the shade (15.6 percent versus 10.5 percent of the general population) and wear a baseball cap/visor (31.3 percent versus 18.4 percent), wide-brimmed hat (20.5 percent versus 6.1 percent) and/or long-sleeved shirt (12 percent versus 5.2 percent) when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour. They were also more likely to always wear sunscreen (32 percent versus 17.2 percent).

However, 15.4 percent of melanoma survivors still reported rarely or never staying in the shade, 27.3 percent reported never wearing sunscreen when going outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour (compared with 35.4 percent of the general population), and 2.1 percent reported using a tanning bed during the previous year (compared with 5.5 percent of the general population).

“We now know that a significant proportion of melanoma survivors still could be doing better. This study speaks to what we could do to educate melanoma survivors on how to prevent recurrence,” Chagpar said.

In addition, she recommended researchers use the data to educate the general population, as the results revealed that only 17.2 percent of Americans will always use sunscreen and 5.5 percent still use tanning beds.

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Press registration for the AACR Annual Meeting 2013 is free to qualified journalists and public information officers.

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About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
In Washington, D.C.,
April 6-10, 2013:

(202) 249-4005

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