Myths and facts about tanning and skin cancer
The largest organ of your body is your skin. Dr. Arnold Baskies says it's important to protect it from the sun.
In 2016, there were 2,200 cases of melanoma. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates 2,830 New Jerseyans will be diagnosed with skin cancer.
Baskies, chairman of the National Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society, said the most common skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell. These rarely cause death. But melanoma is the deadliest of the skin cancers. All three types, however, are preventable by using simple techniques.
Avoid the midday sun; wear apparel that shields direct sun exposure; and use appropriate sunscreens.
When buying sunblock, look for broadspectrum coverage — sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays — because both can cause skin cancer. The sunscreen should be at least SPF 15. The higher the SPF number, the less likely a person will feel burned.
Sunburn can increase a person's risk of getting skin cancer.
Baskies said sunscreen should be reapplied every couple of hours, especially if a person is sweating or swimming because there is no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen.
How much sunscreen should be applied? Baskies suggests a shot glass full of sunscreen should be used to cover the entire body.
He also warned that tanning salons are very skin destructive and are associated with skin cancers. One of the biggest myths around is that pre-tanning at a tanning salon will give a person a protective base tan. Baskies said this is a fallacy.
Baskies said there are signs to look out for. If there is a mole on the body that looks strange — if it has an edge that looks irregular or raised, if the color has changed or has a funny color to begin with, or if it's a new mole — that should come to the attention of a trained person to evaluate it.
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