Think you’re too young for melanoma? Think again!

The desire for sun-kissed skin often sends girls and women outdoors to soak up the sun or has them running to a tanning salon. The result? More young women are getting skin cancer than ever before, including melanoma, the most dangerous form of the disease.

Although melanoma is more likely to occur in older adults, it is one of the most common cancers in people under the age of 30, according to the American Cancer Society. New cases of melanoma increased eight-fold among women age 18-39 since 1970, a Mayo Clinic study uncovered. The rate also jumped in men within this age group, but not nearly as much. Cases of melanoma are even showing up in women as young as 15.

What’s causing this spike?

Tanning Salons

Despite warnings about sun exposure and cancer risk, many young women continue to go to tanning salons. It takes only a few sessions in a tanning bed to significantly increase a woman’s risk of melanoma. People who use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their melanoma risk by 75%, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

What’s the Solution?

Skip the tanning bed. Instead, get a spray tan, use self-tanning creams or learn to embrace that pale skin is beautiful, healthy skin

Outdoor Sports

Some doctors suspect the increase in melanoma rates is related to the growth of organized outdoor sports. Young athletes often spend hours in the sun while on the soccer or softball field.

What’s the Solution?

Keep exercising outside, but always use sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 50 for outdoor sports.

Sunburns

At least half of people age 18-29 reported they had gotten at least one sunburn in the last year, according to a study published by the CDC. Melanoma risk doubles if you have had 5 or more sunburns.

What’s the Solution?

Always wear sunscreen and protective clothing when out in the sun. Slather on sunscreen 20 minutes before heading out and reapply every 2 hours. Wear a hat and sunglasses. It’s also best to avoid the sun during the midday hours of 10am-4pm.

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