Summer in Southern California offers many opportunities to eat healthy and be active, whether enjoying a walk in the park, shopping at a farmers’ market, or taking free swim lessons provided through many cities’ Operation Splash programs.
Spending time outdoors has been shown to decrease stress, enhance mental clarity, and promote other health benefits. But exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun also can lead to skin cancer, particularly melanoma, the deadliest form. Although the risk of melanoma increases as people age, surprisingly, it has reached epidemic proportions among people under age 30, soaring by 50 percent since 1980, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Meet Brooke Romero, a Kaiser Permanente member who overcame melanoma as a young adult.
In fact, today melanoma:
Major contributing factors for increasing melanoma rates in children, adolescents and young adults are likely excessive tanning and the increased use of commercial tanning beds. Other causes also may be at play, such as more frequent and improved medical diagnostic testing, as well as a person’s genetics, according to Paola Rodriguez, MD, dermatologist, Southern California Permanente Medical Group.
Genetics, for example, is one reason why young people can acquire melanoma earlier in life, including on areas of the body not usually exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the nails. Caucasians are most at risk for melanoma, especially those with fair skin and light hair or eyes; have had a blistering sunburn before age 18; and/or have a family history of skin cancer.
“People darker skin tones, such as African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, may think they’re not as susceptible to skin cancer because they don’t burn as easily, and therefore, may be less likely to use sunscreen,” said Dr. Rodriguez, who practices at Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center. “As a result, people of color are more prone to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages after the disease is more advanced.”
Despite increased awareness about the harmful impact of tanning, many young people perceive the bronzed look gives them a “healthy glow.” A significant number, mostly young females, turn to indoor tanning salons. While sunlight can damage the skin, intense, artificial UV rays in indoor tanning booths can be especially dangerous.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology:
Although using sunless tanner sprays and lotions to get the desired effect is healthier than an indoor tanning bed or catching some rays, Dr. Rodriguez has another suggestion: “For all of us to love and be happy with the skin we’re in.”
Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s community health funding supports various partner organizations to provide popular programs such as Operation Splash, Rethink Your Drink and HEAL (Healthy Eating Active Living) zones, as well as to increase access to green spaces and farmers’ markets.
To learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s work in the community, visit https://community.kp.org.
The greatest protection against most skin cancers, including melanoma, includes the following:
Examine moles or suspicious spots on the skin using the ABCDEs of melanoma: