Study: Social Norms Have Increased Cases of Melanoma

Researchers at New York University have recently found that after fashion choices and a desire to look tanned changed in the past 30 years, rates of melanoma increased – in sharp contrast with how at the beginning of the 20th century, it was more preferable to look paler.

Dr. David Polsky and his colleagues at New York University Langone Medical Center pointed out that factors such as travel patterns, clothing styles and increased tanning have in turn led to a general increase in UV exposure, which increases your risk of developing melanoma.

Previously, darker skin was associated with lower-class, working people and racial stereotypes – but after the 20th century, people became eager to associate sunshine with health benefits – after all, it even helped patients with tuberculosis. As a result, we started spending more time outdoors, hemlines went up, bikinis became smaller and more of our skin became exposed to the sun than it had before.

Sadly, knowledge of the risks of skin cancer associated with extended sun and UVA/UVB exposure has not done much to deter us from perceiving tan skin as being trendy. We still consider baking on the beach to be in pursuit of the “healthy tan” – and perhaps that’s the mentality that has seen melanoma cases in the U.S. jump from 22.8 per 100,000 to 28.9 per 100,000 between 2000 and 2009.

Make sure you stay protected – you’re doing your skin a big favor in the long run.

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