Survey: Tanning Popular Among Young Women, Despite Link to Skin Cancer
Teenage girls continue flocking to tanning beds—despite repeated warnings about the dangers of "fake baking." Ultraviolet rays that come from either the sun or an artificial source are carcinogens, and studies have found that people who engage in indoor tanning increase their risk of developing the deadly skin cancer melanoma by 75 percent. Still, 32 percent of young women polled by the American Academy of Dermatology said they had used a tanning bed within the past year, and 25 percent repeated the experience on a weekly basis, according to survey findings released Monday. Each year, about 68,000 people develop melanoma, the leading cause of death from skin disease—resulting in nearly 9,000 deaths. Over the past three decades, melanoma rates have risen, especially among young, white women, according to the academy. "The challenge is that teens have access to indoor tanning salons on almost every corner," Ronald Moy, the academy's president, said in a press statement. "We are very concerned that this behavior will lead to a continued increase in the incidence of skin cancer in young people and, ultimately, more untimely deaths from this devastating disease. Our survey underscores the importance of educating young women about the very real risks of tanning."
8 Ways to Spot Skin Cancer Before It Kills
When skin cancer is spotted early, it's almost always curable. For melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent—if the tumor is spotted when it's nothing more than a spot on the skin, according to the American Cancer Society. But that survival rate plunges to 15 percent once the fast growing cancer has spread. In 2008, William Hanke, then-president of the American Academy of Dermatology, told U.S. News how to spot skin cancer before it spreads. Here's his advice:
1. Look for new spots. While some melanomas emerge from moles, about 70 percent do not.
2. Monitor moles for any signs of change. Moles that change shape, color, or size are big red flags. Look at this helpful Mayo Clinic slide show to see the gory details of what to look for.
3. Be wary of moles that bleed. Normally moles shouldn't, so that's a sign of potential trouble.
4. Men, watch your back; women, your legs. It's more common for men to get melanomas on their backs and trunks, while women tend to get them on their legs and calves.
5. Guys, monitor the top of your ears and head especially closely. Many hats for men don't shade the ears, and balding men often forget to protect their hairless pates. Both are common sites for squamous and basal cell carcinoma. [Read more: 8 Ways to Spot Skin Cancer Before It Kills.]
Too Much Sun? How to Minimize Wrinkles and Cancer Risks
If you already have a tan, is there anything you can do to minimize the damage to your 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 you 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 take care to avoid prolonged sunbathing in the future.
To be on the safe side, she also recommends checking your skin every few months for new spots, moles that bleed, or growths that have changed in shape, color, or size. Not only do these checks help catch skin cancer early, but they can also help spot precancers, which can be removed before they turn malignant. "[Suspicious] growths tend to look rough, scaly, and pink," says Stein.
Minimizing wrinkles after a suntan is possible. "Use topical therapies daily consisting of retinol and other antioxidants," says Ariel Ostad, a New York City-based dermatologist. Antioxidant-laden wrinkle creams can help neutralize free radicals, harmful molecules produced by the sun's ultraviolet rays that damage skin cells and cause wrinkles. [Read more: Too Much Sun? How to Minimize Wrinkles and Cancer Risks.]