Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. There are approximately one million skin cancer diagnoses in the US each year. Skin cancer is easily preventable; by limiting exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, a person can reduce their risk for certain types of skin cancers. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Tanning is the skin's biological response to injury. Whether from the sun or an artificial source, long range effects on the skin are the same. Short, intense bursts of UVA rays, such as those found in tanning beds and blistering sunburns, increase the risk of skin cancer. A family history of skin cancer, having fair skin, and having more than one blistering sun burn before puberty are other factors that can increase a person's risk for skin cancer.
Artificial sources of UV radiation, such as tanning beds and tanning lamps, expose our bodies to UVA rays. The average 15-30 minute visit to a tanning salon is equal to an entire day at the beach. A 2003 National Cancer Institute study found that women who used a tanning bed more than once a month are 55% more likely to develop melanoma, which is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
It may be possible to reduce the risk for skin cancer. The following suggestions can help lower a person's risk:
- Avoid sunbathing.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Wear a hat that shields your face from the sun.
- Limit your sun exposure. The sun is hottest and strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater. Reapply often
- Wear sunglasses that are UV rated.
- Choose cosmetics, moisturizing creams, and lotions that contain a sunscreen.
- Protect your lips year around with a product that has a sun protection factor of 15 or greater.