Skin-cancer rates have spiked 800% among young women; experts advise limiting exposure to sun and tanning beds

New research shows that skin-cancer rates have surged among young women, likely because they use tanning beds, but health experts warn that exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays puts us all at risk, so it’s important to always take precautions when out in the sun.

The research, presented at the summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that between 1970 and 2009, rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increased 800 percent among women 18 to 39, an AAD news release said.

During a similar time frame, the researchers also found that basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinoma rates also increased, 145% and 263%, respectively.

“Because there’s a delay between UV exposure and when skin cancer appears, most women don’t think it will happen to them,” Dr. M. Laurin Council, a dermatologist and associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said in the release. “This data reveals the disproportionate rise in the number of skin cancers in women and the need for further education regarding UV exposure.”

Indoor tanning by Caucasian girls and young women “is of particular focus,” says the release, because it is estimated that indoor tanning may cause more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.

“One indoor tanning session can increase a user’s lifetime risk of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal-cell carcinoma by 29% . . . and this risk increases with each use,” says the release.

Council says limiting exposure to UV rays from the sun or other sources like tanning beds is the best way to decrease your risk for skin cancer. She adds that it is especially important to avoid sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because that’s when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adds that the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes and notes that a tan does not indicate good health, but instead is the skin’s response to injury, because skin cells signal that they have been hurt by UV rays by producing more pigment called melanin.

“Every time you tan, you increase your risk of getting skin cancer,” says the CDC.

Other suggestions to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing including lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when out in the sun, as well as using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher (Council says the SPF should be 30), and apply every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating

Council also calls on parents to teach their children about the dangers of sun exposure and tanning beds, and their relationship to skin cancer.

In Kentucky , melanoma of the skin, or skin cancer, is one of the top 10 cancers by rates of new cases, at 28.7 cases per 100,000 people.