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Wearing protective sunblock can help reduce the risk of sun damage during a day at the beach. Getty Images
  • One in five U.S. adults will develop skin cancer by age 70.
  • More women are developing skin cancer at an earlier age.
  • Experts point to tanning beds as the main culprit for the increase in cancer rates.
  • One session in a tanning bed will increase melanoma risk by about 20 percent.

More people receive skin cancer diagnoses each year than any other cancer, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults will develop skin cancer by the age of 70 — a statistic that’s soaring among young women, especially white women.

New research from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) found that rates of melanoma — the most lethal form of skin cancer — have increased by nearly 800 percent among women between the ages of 18 to 39 from 1970 to 2009.

In addition, incidences of basal cell carcinoma have increased by about 145 percent and reports of squamous cell carcinoma have increased by nearly 263 percent, according to the AAD’s findings.

Dangerous ultraviolet light (UV) exposure — especially from tanning beds — can significantly increase one’s chances of getting skin cancer. And because skin cancer can take years to develop, the risks may not be top of mind to many young people.

“We know the damaging effects of UV light has on our skin, especially at a young age, and we know that young women utilize indoor tanning more frequently than their male counterparts. There’s a delay in the development in skin cancer, but we see first diagnosis at younger ages,” Dr. Trevan Fischer, a surgical oncologist and assistant professor of surgical oncology at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline.

Tanning beds seem to be the main culprit behind the drastic increase in skin cancer rates.

While people have been using tanning beds less frequently in recent years, an estimated 7.8 million women still go under the lamp.

Researchers suspect that tanning bed use causes a whopping 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the United States each year.

UV exposure emitted from tanning beds is extremely intense. One session in a tanning bed can increase the risk of developing melanoma by about 20 percent, the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by about 67 percent, and the chances of getting basal cell carcinoma by about 29 percent.

While the risks don’t seem worth it, many young women ignore the warnings and continue to bake under the harmful UV rays, attributing to the significant spike in skin cancer among young women.

“We expect to see basal cell carcinomas in older patients on sun-exposed areas such as the face. We’re now seeing these same skin cancers on the abdomen and other places not regularly exposed to the sun in young women who’ve used tanning beds,” Dr. Jennifer Stein, MD, PhD, professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health, told Healthline.

Health experts are most concerned that melanoma is on the rise.

“Melanoma is by far the most deadly skin cancer of the three most common forms,” Fischer said. “This is because it has the ability to spread throughout the body even when only small lesions appear on the skin.”

When it’s detected early enough, melanoma can be cured with surgery in addition to immunotherapy and targeted drugs.

However, basal and squamous cell carcinoma tend to occur later in life, but that’s changing rapidly.

These cancers usually form around areas exposed to the most sunlight — such as the head, neck, face, hands, and arms.

They’re less likely to spread to other parts of the body, but will continue to grow unless they’re surgically removed, Stein said.

Skin cancer can be tricky to spot at first, which is why it’s crucial to check your skin frequently and visit a dermatologist regularly.

The sooner you start practicing sun safety habits the better.

“The importance of sun protection early in life is critical in reducing the risk of melanoma, specifically avoiding severe or blistering sunburns,” Fischer said.

He recommends wearing sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation and avoiding the sun during peak hours — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Opt for the shade, wear protective clothing, and reapply your sunblock every two hours or so.

Most importantly, avoid tanning beds and examine your skin regularly for any skin changes.

You don’t need to avoid the sun altogether, but you should be smart about it.

“By protecting your skin, you can still live a healthy outdoor lifestyle and be safe about the sun,” Stein said.

New research from the AAD discovered that skin cancer rates have skyrocketed among young women in recent years. The main culprit behind the spike appears to be tanning bed use.

The UV rays emitted from tanning beds are intense and damaging. Most skin cancers are preventable as long as you practice sun-safety habits and reduce your overall UV exposure.