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With Skin Cancer On The Rise, Acting Surgeon General Lushniak Discusses Call To Action

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"We begin this week with a call to action to deal with the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.," says host Barbara Lewis.

Interview highlights

Dr. Boris Lushniak: It's really one of those cancers that has been increasing in terms of its number of people affected. We have around 9,000 people dying from skin cancer every year. That's one person every hour for something that is preventable, so really it's not just the numbers of people that die from a disease, it's the numbers of people who get a preventable disease. And ultimately the role of the Surgeon General is to take the best science available and share it with the American public and come up with recommendations on how we prevent diseases.

Lewis: Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak is calling the explosion in cases of skin cancer a major health problem. Five million Americans are treated every year for various types of skin cancer. And virtually, all of these cancers were caused by unnecessary ultraviolet radiation exposure, either excessive time in the natural sun or from the use of indoor tanning devices. It's a story we're told often on this program and you've heard the advice: wear sunscreen; avoid mid-day sun; put on a hat. So what new strategies might work in the fight against skin cancer? We spoke to the Surgeon General about how communities can respond to the problem that's costing the nation more than 8 billion dollars every year. 

Lushniak:  What I am advocating is that when we are out in sunlight that we be careful with a source of radiation. There are various preventative measures that people can do. That includes wearing a wide-brimmed hat; putting on a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses; putting on sun-protective clothing; putting on sunscreen (with a SPF of 15 or greater); and also seeking shade when it's possible. When it comes to indoor tanning, now you have same ultraviolet radiation, which is a known carcinogen, but it's really, as I see it, a needless exposure. Yes, we live in a society where tanned skin is somehow equated with healthy skin. We always compliment people: "Oh, look. You're so tan. You look so great... You look tan. You must have been on vacation." One of the things in our Surgeon General's Call to Action is that tanned skin is in fact damaged skin. And part of those things that we're trying to introduce out there is the fact of changing our social norms.