Published 3 months ago, by Roeland Pater

Skin cancer is now the most common cancer for young people. That sounds alarming, and it is. If we look back a few decades, skin cancer rates have been climbing steadily – and there is no stopping it soon. But why is that? Let’s take a look at the different factors that contribute to the rise of skin cancer, and how we can possibly put a stop to it.

One of the most obvious causes for the steady increase of skin cancer incidence, is behaviour. We have been expanding our lifestyle choices to dangerous terrain, which had (and still has) an effect on the growth of this problem. 

Indoor tanning

On top of the behaviour-list stands indoor tanning. If we look back a few years we see that since 1992, the indoor tanning industry has grown five-fold, with 28 million indoor tanners in the United States alone. So why is this such an issue?

Well, exposure to UV radiation is considered to be the number one cause for skin cancer. Without tanning beds the exposure to UV was limited to the spring and summer for most countries. People would take the holiday season to enjoy the sun, which is very healthy of course as well – as we get vitamin D from the sun. But with the arrival of tanning beds in the 90s, things changed. People would start going to tanning salons or purchase a tanning bed themselves, and enjoy ‘sun’ throughout the year. This over-exposure to UV has seen it’s effect.

Dermatologists advise to never make use of tanning beds, just so you know.

Outdoor tanning

Next to the indoor tanning, we have seen a behavioural change in the way we enjoy the sun outdoors as well. The last decades of the past century has shown a vast climb in sunny holidays. People go to countries where the sun shines brightly – especially compared to their own country. These people would get sunburnt at least a few times a year, which highly increased their chances on getting skin cancer during their lifetime.

The above is also a direct result of the lack of use of sunscreen. A few decades ago, sunscreen was something that a lot of people would use the day after they got sunburnt. There was not a lot of knowledge about the skin cancer risk and the advantages (or urgency) of sunscreen usage. Luckily, this is changing. The use of sunscreen is heavily promoted and more and more people know what to do. To remind you; always wear sunscreen when going into the sun, reapply every 2 hours, and stay in the shade during the strongest hours of the sun (12pm-3pm).

Low awareness

The sunscreen example also shows something else; simply a lack of awareness. Not only about sunscreen, but about skin cancer risk in general. With the exception of countries like New Zealand and Australia, where 1 in 3 gets the disease, there are a lot of countries globally where people simply don’t know that skin cancer is so common.

This needs to change. Luckily with new technologies people are able to perform self-checks and therefore the barriers to do such checks are taken away. When you worry, you can do this first check yourself to have an indication of risk.

Limited government campaigning

This also aligns with the previous point. The lack of awareness is a big issue. What we see worldwide is that there are limited government campaigns being run to increase awareness, even now when skin cancer has grown to be the most common cancer for young people. If we want to put a stop to the skin cancer rise, countries need to take responsibility and educate their population.