Study Finds Link Between Skin Cancer And Denial: How To Assess Your Cancer Risk + Take Action

A 2008 study of sun-protective behaviors conducted by The National Cancer Institute found that 68% of American adults, 85.6% of teenage girls and 92.6% of teenage girls reported that they did not wear sunscreen regularly when outside for more than an hour on a sunny day.

Those numbers are startling, given the prevalence of skin cancer and the wealth of sun protection information available. If you read this blog – or any health or skincare blog, for that matter – you’re probably already aware of the dangers of sun damage, but to refresh your memory, here are some statistics, straight from The Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually.
  • One person dies of melanoma every hour (every 57 minutes.)
  •  Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
  •  One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another two percent.
  • More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun.
  • An estimated 3,170 deaths from nonmelanoma skin cancers will occur in the US in 2013.

As the American Cancer Association states on its website, the most crucial method of skin cancer prevention is limiting exposure to U.V. rays, which basically boils down to protecting your skin from the sun, which is not too difficult to do these days, thanks to modern inventions such as sunscreen, clothing, and shelter. That brings us back to our original question: Why don’t more Americans protect their skin from the sun?

Whilst contemplating the issue we found ourselves reflecting on a 2010 study by Northwestern University: In an effort to understand why patients diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer were delaying treatment, researchers polled 982 patients eligible for Mohs surgical treatments (surgeries associated with treating skin cancer) who delayed treatment. Patients polled were asked to explain the reasoning behind their behaviors. The number one reason cited was denial.

In 71% of the cases, denial was cited as the primary reason for the delays. The report included examples of the cognitions associated with the denial, which were as follows: “Thought it would go away,” “Thought it wasn’t important,” “Too busy,” “Thought they could self-treat,” “Afraid it might be something dangerous.”

It may be a stretch to suggest that denial is also the cause of Americans’ lax sun protection habits, but, considering the prevalence of skin cancer and the wealth of readily-available sun protection information, how else can you explain the dismal compliance rates?

Well, America, it’s time to learn the facts and take control of your health. Learn about your personal risks by taking this quiz and use the vast, internet –shaped ocean of information to learn how you can improve your sun protection habits.

Don’t let denial turn you into a statistic.