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August 6, 2010
I consider myself pretty careful when it comes to using sunscreen; I apply it religiously whenever I head outdoors for activities, even in the early evening. Yet on a cruise last week—despite my best efforts—I developed a dark tan, the kind I'm worried will lead to wrinkles and raise my risk of skin cancer. In hindsight, perhaps lounging around every day in the mid-afternoon sun wasn't such a great idea. But now that I've got my tan, is there anything I can do to minimize the damage to my skin?
Yes and no, says Jennifer Stein, an assistant professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. "The body can repair some of the DNA damage caused by excess sun exposure on its own," she says. That means I shouldn't be too concerned about elevated skin cancer risks from one bout of tanning. On the other hand, she adds, studies have linked habitual tanning to a greater risk of skin cancer, so I should take care to avoid prolonged sunbathing in the future. Ditto for tanning beds, which the World Health Organization has added to its list of carcinogens.