(WBIR-Knoxville) The Surgeon General is now warning people about the dangers of tanning beds and the nationwide skin cancer epidemic. A recent report found tanning beds are a dominant contributor to skin cancer.
"Even though most skin cancers can be prevented, rates of skin cancer, including melanoma, are increasing in the United States," Surgeon General Boris Lushniak said in his report.
Lushniak said many people are forgetting to protect their skin from the sun. Knoxville Parks and Recreation said they do everything they can to inform the public about the importance of sunscreen and it starts with their lifeguards.
"We give them visors," said Kristin Manuel, Recreation Superintendent. "They usually wear their t-shirts even when they are on the stand. We have umbrellas for them. We do require that all of them put sunscreen on. Even though we can't physically make them do it, we do stress the importance of sunscreen and they do a great job in making sure they lead by example."
These tips may help you while outdoors, but experts said it's indoors where the problems really are. Lushniak said in a release that skin cancer is considered a "major public health problem". Experts at UT Medical Hospital agree.
"Melanoma, one of the deadlier kind of the deadlier types of skin cancers, it's the most common type of skin cancer in 20 year old females," said Dr. Jim Lewis, UT Surgical Oncologist.
Lushniak's report says 63,000 cases are serious and 6,000 of them are directly linked to indoor tanning.
"It's a behavior that can be stopped," said Dr. Lewis. "You can choose not to go into a tanning bed. You can choose not to get sunburned. That's going to be important. It's difficult to look into the eyes of a 20 year old and tell them they have melanoma."
The Centers for Disease Control said fewer teens are tanning than in recent years. Nearly 13 percent of teens younger than 18 admitted to indoor tanning. That's down from 15.5 percent in 2009.
"Most of the laws now are at least trying to protect minors. California was the first state and that started back in I believe in 2011 where they banned tanning for 18 years and younger," Dr. Lewis said. "In Tennessee, for example, is a parental consent state."
Experts said you don't have to avoid sunlight completely, just be careful.
"Make sure you put your sunscreen on," Manuel said. "Make sure it has a good SPF value on it and it's a good, reputable sunscreen."
Experts at UT said if you notice anything suspicious on your skin, it's extremely important to contact your doctor immediately.
We reached out to several tanning salons in East Tennessee to get their reaction. No one was willing to give a comment.