Stillwater News Press

Health & Environment

May 24, 2014

Live Well 05-25-14

No such thing as a ‘safe tan’

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because of its ability to spread, or metastasize.

According to the American Cancer Society, an American is diagnosed with melanoma every eight minutes. Every hour someone dies from melanoma. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults ages 25 to 29, and numbers of melanoma have been increasing. Experts at the American Academy of Dermatology believe this is due to aging Baby Boomers that have a history of excessive sun exposure that didn’t have access to sun screens, and the excessive use of tanning beds in our younger generation. Melanoma detected before it spreads to lymph nodes or internal organs has a five-year survival rate of up to 98 percent. The best way to decrease your risk of melanoma is to practice good sun protection.

Remember this.

There is no such thing as a “safe tan.”

A tan is the result of your body increasing the melanin – the cells that give your skin color – to the surface of your skin to protect the deeper layers from further sun damage. Simply put: Tan skin = sun damage. Getting a base tan = sun damage.

Tanning beds are not safe.

The World Health Organization classifies tanning beds as known carcinogens – cancer causing agents in the same class as tobacco, cigarettes and asbestos. Studies have found that people who use tanning beds before the age of 30 increase their chances of developing melanoma by up to 75 percent.

What’s the best sunscreen? The one you like enough to use every day. This is different for everyone. Sunscreens come in many different forms, including creams, lotions, gels, sprays, powders and lip balm. No matter what type you choose, your sunscreen should be:

• Broad spectrum (to protect against UVA and UVB rays)

• SPF of at least 30 (this will protect against 97 percent of UV exposure)

• Applied at least 15 minutes BEFORE sun exposure

• Water resistant

• Reapplied every two hours or as directed on sunscreen label

• Used even on cloudy days since 80 percent of UV rays still penetrate through clouds

Avoid the sun when UV rays are at their highest – between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Don’t forget snow, sand and water reflect the sun’s rays also.

Wear sun protective clothing when possible.

There are several clothing lines made using certain fabrics and weaving techniques that increase the SPF of the garment. There is also a soak in SPF powder you can add to your clothing during the rinse cycle that increases their SPF.

Check your skin regularly.

Check for new moles and any changes in your existing moles. Get screened by a healthcare professional if you haven’t done so.

Kenda Baker is on staff at Metcalf Dermatology.

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