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A look can kill: How getting the perfect tan can increase skin cancer risk

By Andrew McDougall+

06-May-2014
Last updated on 06-May-2014 at 17:07 GMT

A look can kill: How getting the perfect tan can increase skin cancer risk

As skin cancer awareness month begins, dermatologists believe it is the perfect time to reiterate the importance of sunscreen and protecting yourself against too much sun exposure.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and when left untreated, melanoma is the most dangerous and aggressive form, accounting for more than 9,000 of the 12,000-plus skin cancer deaths each year.

May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) is focusing on helping teens keep their skin safe this spring with a new infographic, highlighting the importance of sun protection.

"Sun tanning equals skin damage," says Dr David R. Byrd, director of surgery at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

"To minimize the risk of skin cancer, we recommend people use a daily sunscreen with an SPF of 30 and limit the amount of time spent in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m."

Melanoma risk

According to SCCA figures 76% of melanomas found in women between the ages of 18 and 29 are associated with tanning bed use, and teens choosing to tan indoors under UV light are more likely to get melanoma.

SCCA also warns that getting sunburn as a teen can more than double an individual's chance of developing melanoma later on in life.

This means that the importance of sunscreen is paramount, especially when research shows that only 15% of males and 37% of females claim to use sunscreen most of the time or always.

“Anyone can develop skin cancer, but there are lifestyle choices one can make to reduce their risk,” says SCCA.

Teens choosing to opt out of the tanning bed, taking the extra time to put on sunscreen, and seeking the shade during the hottest hours of the day are making an investment in their health and ensuring their beauty is actually skin deep, according to the Alliance.

The new "Looks Really Can Kill You" infographic is its attempt to educate teens on their skin cancer risks by encouraging them to change their daily and summer-ready routines.

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