TOMS RIVER, NJ, JANUARY 8, 2009 – Winter is here, and along the Jersey Shore, many people long for the warm, sunny days of summer. If you’re tempted to hit the tanning salon to refresh that summer glow, think again says David D’Ambrosio, MD, radiation oncologist at Community Medical Center’s J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center. Tanning beds can be just as dangerous as the sun and overexposure can lead to skin cancer.
For decades, physicians have recommended reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen when in direct sunlight to prevent overexposure, a major cause of skin cancer. Now physicians warn that the radiation emitted from the ultraviolet lights used in a tanning bed has also been found to cause skin cancer.
Dr. D’Ambrosio said, “Despite rumors to the contrary, artificial tanning is just as dangerous as outdoor tanning. While this does not mean you have to cut out outdoor activities or stop using tanning booths, you should minimize your exposure to them and the harsh effects to your skin.”
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than one million cases diagnosed each year. There are three main types of skin cancers. Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common and rarely become life threatening with early detection and treatment. Melanoma, while not as common, can become life threatening if it is not recognized and treated early.
Examining your skin, recognizing any noticeable changes, and reporting them to your doctor is an important step in maintaining healthy skin, Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “Possible signs of skin cancer can include changes in a mole, a sore that does not heal, a skin growth that increases in size, or a spot that continues to itch, hurt, or scab.”
He added, “People with fair skin, red or blond hair, green or blue eyes and freckles have a much greater risk of sunburn, a precursor that can lead to skin cancer. In addition, heredity is also a melanoma risk factor, since one in every ten patients diagnosed has a family member with a history of the disease.”
Skin cancer is harder to stop once it has spread to other parts of the body; however, when diagnosed early, it can be successfully treated and often cured,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said.
If a tanned complexion is desired, Dr. D’Ambrosio suggests bronzers as an alternative. They are considered cosmetics and are not harmful to the skin. Bronzers are made from color additives that stain the skin and can easily be washed off with soap and water.
“Remember, skin cancer is preventable,” Dr. D’Ambrosio said. “Always remember to use sunscreen – even in the winter – and use caution when tanning indoors.”
For more information on the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center at Community Medical Center, or for referral to a physician for a skin cancer screening, call 1-888-724-7123.
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