Skin Cancer on the Rise

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

April 20, 2006

The American Academy of Dermatology is issuing a warning about a skin cancer epidemic that's sweeping the United States. Officials said even though you think you're protecting yourself by using sunscreen, you might be surprised to learn you may have done irreparable damage already.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer and most of them will be women. A new Mayo Clinic study shows these numbers will only get higher.

"We knew that there have been increases in skin cancer, but we haven't quantified it quite to that level," said Dr. Mark Russell, a University of Virginia Dermatologist.

A.J. Hunter's aunt is part of that statistic. She recently had a bout with skin cancer, but that doesn't seem to stop A.J. or her friend from laying out on the UVA lawn, hoping to catch some of the suns rays.

"I feel like a tan is healthy," said Sarah Wilson, a UVA student.

"My tendency to tan easily is one of the reasons [why] I don't worry as much. I have had a couple really bad burns, though," said A.J. Hunter, who used to tan regularly.

Dermatologists like Dr. Mark Russell said these sunburns are what people need to watch out for.

"Five sunburns will double your risk of skin cancer over a lifetime," said Dr. Russell.

A lot of times, tanning beds are to blame for bad burns. In the same study, researchers found that almost half of the cancer detected in women was found in places where the sun is normally not exposed to like the head and neck.

"Which leads one to speculate that was either the result of excessive tanning or tanning bed use," said Dr. Russell.

Dermatologists recommend people stick with the sunscreen and hats to protect against cancer in the future, but the damage may be done already. Dermatologists say there is no such thing as a safe tan.

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