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Doctor urges young to watch skin cancer risks
Just 1 bad burn can double chances of developing melanoma
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Sun safety tips

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that will block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply every few hours.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Wear lip balm with SPF.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Wear hats and clothing to protect skin.
  • Avoid the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Be aware of your location; high altitudes increase the amount of radiation skin can absorb.
  • Read the labels on medications; some antibiotics can cause skin to burn more easily.

What to watch for

  • Keep an eye on existing freckles and moles and note any changes in size, shape or color.
  • Be alert to any new growths, lesions, blistering or rough spots with scaly appearance as these could indicate skin cancer.

Source: The Mayo Clinic and Dr. Fatimah Manzoor with The Longstreet Clinic

While that touch of sun may look nice, it could have serious consequences on your health later in life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, each sunburn increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer.

A recently released government study found that half of U.S. adults younger than 30 say they have had a sunburn at least once in the past year — a sign young people aren’t heeding the warnings about skin cancer.

The rate of sunburn is about the same as it was 10 years earlier, reversing progress reported just five years ago.

“The No. 1 risk factor is the person’s sun exposure habits,” said Dr. Fatimah Manzoor, a physician who practices internal medicine at The Longstreet Clinic.

After that, the risk of sunburn increases in people with fair skin, light eyes and freckles and with the number of sunburns a person has had.

Experts say that even one blistering burn can double the risk of developing melanoma, an often lethal form of skin cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the study Thursday, which was based on a 2010 survey of about 5,000 U.S. adults ages 18 to 29. The study showed that the share of those who said they had a sunburn in the preceding year went from about 51 percent in 2000 to 45 percent in 2005, but then went back up to 50 percent in 2010.

Surprisingly, the CDC also found an increase since 2005 in the number of people who said they wear sunscreen or take other steps to protect their skin. But only about a third said they usually wore sunscreen. And the increasing rate of sunburns suggests many people are not putting on enough or reapplying it sufficiently, some experts said.

A typical dose of sunscreen is about 1 ounce. Sunscreen should be applied no more than 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every few hours, more often when swimming or sweating.

While there are hundreds of products that promise to protect skin from sun damaging rays, Manzoor said people should aim for a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30.

A broad spectrum sunscreen protects from both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF is a number that shows how long a person can be exposed to the sun without being burned. For instance, a person who usually burns after 20 minutes in sun could wear an SPF of 10 and be covered for 200 minutes.

Manzoor said that even with proper sunscreen usage, there are some areas of the body that are frequently left exposed. She suggests wearing sunglasses and a lip balm with SPF to help prevent nonmelanoma skin cancers on delicate facial skin.

“That is something that is very important especially when you’re going out in the sun for a while, making sure that you are wearing sunscreen on all parts of the body that are not covered by clothes,” Manzoor said.

Also on Thursday, the CDC released findings from the survey on how many people use tanning beds, booths or sun lamps. About 6 percent of all adults said they had done indoor tanning in the previous year. The rates were much higher in young white women: About 32 percent of white women ages 18 to 21 had done indoor tanning, and nearly as many white women 22 to 25 did.

A similar survey in 2005 found about 27 percent of young women said they had done indoor tanning.

“One of the things that is a rising risk for skin cancer is tanning beds,” Manzoor said.

The World Health Organization classified tanning devices as carcinogenic in 2009, based on an analysis of 20 studies. The studies found the risks of melanoma rose 75 percent in people who started indoor tanning before age 30.

“It’s not a question of whether tanning beds cause cancer anymore. We’ve been able to prove that,” said Dr. Jerry Brewer, a Mayo Clinic dermatologist and researcher.

The latest study found indoor tanning often involved more than one trip to a salon for the novelty of it, or to bronze for a special occasion. Women in their 20s said they did indoor tanning more than 20 times in the previous year, on average.

Another surprise: As many as 13 percent of women who had a family history of skin cancer had done indoor tanning.

Manzoor said she thinks young people take more risks with sun damage because they are not as aware of skin cancer as they are of other cancers, like breast, lung and colon cancers.

“In their families they see the other kinds of cancers. But these are the ones they might not be as aware of,” Manzoor said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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