Is Tanning Addictive? Yale Study Finds 27% of Melanoma Survivors Forego Sunscreen

The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2013 close to ten thousand people will die from melanoma. Although it is not the most common type of skin cancer, melanoma causes more deaths than any other type of skin cancer, which is why it has been labeled the “most deadly” type of skin cancer.

Considering the high mortality rate and the invasive, costly nature of melanoma cancer treatments, you might assume that melanoma survivors do everything in their power to limit their risks of relapse, especially since, as the American Cancer Association states on its website, the most crucial method of prevention is simply limiting exposure to U.V. rays (colloquially known as “staying out of the sun.”) According to a new study conducted by Yale School of Medicine, that assumption is incorrect.

The study, which analyzed self-reported data from 171 melanoma survivors, revealed that some melanoma survivors use tanning beds and forego using sunscreen. To be precise, 27.3% of the survivors reported never wearing sunscreen, 15.4% reported rarely or never staying in the shade, 2.1% reported using indoor tanning beds.

“We know that sun exposure and indoor tanning increase the risk of developing melanoma, so it’s incredibly disturbing that even after getting the disease once, some survivors continue these practices which would put them at greater risk of getting it again,” said author Dr. Anees Chagpar, associate professor of surgical oncology at Yale Cancer Center and director of the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven, when interviewed by Yale News.

If you’re anything like our editorial team here at DermApproved, you’re probably wondering why melanoma survivors engage in behaviors that put them at a greater risk of relapse. What’s to blame? Lack of information? Skepticism surrounding the effectiveness of sunscreen? The Snooki Influence, also known as the pressure to look tan?

Unfortunately, the study did not delve into the psychology behind the patients’ choices.

Upon hearing about the new findings Dr. Richard Thomas, Clinical Associate Professor of Clinical Dermatology, Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, University of British Columbia, acknowledged that the low compliance rates may be caused by a number of factors, then simply stated, “Perhaps the issue of sun protection by clothing and shade, and avoiding peak times needs equal emphasis.”

Why do you think some melanoma survivors continue to tan and forego sunscreen? Have you ever ignored doctors’ orders?