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Care for the Skin You Are In

Having a “tan” has long been glamorized. However, a tan is actually a sign of skin damage. The skin acts out of self-defense and releases melanin, a pigment that darkens the skin. With a lifetime of repeated exposure, including sunburns, this damage can lead to premature aging and possibly skin cancer. Approximately one third of adults get sunburns at least once a year and more than one-half of high school-aged students get serious burns.

There are two types of ultraviolet radiation that penetrate the skin:

  • UV-B rays enter the top layers of skin and are most responsible for sunburns.
  • UV-A rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and are often associated with allergic reactions, such as a rash.

Tanning salons use lamps that emit both UV-A and UV-B radiation — rays that can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer. Oregon and Washington are the only states that prohibit minors (under age 18) from using indoor tanning devices unless prescribed by a doctor.

You can take steps to protect yourself from damaging UV radiation that causes skin cancer.

  • Do not burn.
  • Cover up when outdoors.
  • Seek shade or use an umbrella.
  • Generously apply sunscreen.
  • Use extra caution near sun‑reflecting water, snow and sand.
  • Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds.

According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to UV radiation which results in a tan, whether from the sun or from tanning beds and sunlamps, increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

There are different types of skin cancer. Melanoma is the deadliest since it is more likely to invade surrounding tissue and spread to other areas of the body. However, melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Did you know it’s a myth that only people with light or fair skin tones are at greater risk? Although dark skin doesn’t sunburn as easily as fair skin, everyone is susceptible to skin cancer.

Enjoying the outdoors is still recommended, according to Herschel Wallen, MD, a medical oncologist with Samaritan Hematology & Oncology Consultants.

“I encourage my patients to use a mineral-based sunscreen (such as zinc) with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 15; wear loose fitting; long sleeves, pants or sun-protective clothing; a wide-brim hat and sunglasses,” said Dr. Wallen “The best way to be safe, have fun and prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin.”