EXPERT VOICES

Timely insight on cancer topics from the experts of the American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society Expert Voices

The American Cancer Society

Skin Cancer (4 posts)  RSS

Indoors or outdoors, there's no such thing as a safe tan

May 22, 2014

By Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH


If you read no further, know this: there is no such thing as a safe tan. Indoor tanning is just as dangerous, if not more, than tanning outside in the sun. In fact, indoor tanning injures thousands of people each year badly enough to go to the emergency department. Indoor tanning can cause sunburn and damage to your eyes that could lead to vision loss. Indoor tanning can also cause premature skin aging, including loss of elasticity, wrinkling, age spots, and changes in skin texture.

Most dangerous of all, indoor tanning is a recognized cause of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Approximately 3.5 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated each year, and more than 70,000 melanomas are diagnosed yearly. While many cancers have been on the decline in recent years, rates of melanoma, which causes the most skin cancer-related deaths, have been on the rise. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) through indoor tanning may be partially responsible for the continued increase in melanoma, especially among young women. Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger and more frequent users.

Tanning myths


There are a lot of misconceptions about indoor tanning, so it's important to know the following:

  • Tanned skin is not healthy skin. That "healthy glow" from the tanning bed indicates damage to your skin. Whether tanning or burning, you are exposing yourself to harmful UV rays. In fact, every time you engage in indoor tanning, you increase your risk of melanoma. The truly healthy glow is your natural skin color. More...

Can your sunscreen pose a health risk?

July 22, 2013

By Kenneth Portier, PhD

 

Recently, manufacturers have introduced new sunscreen products that use titanium dioxide, a typical ultraviolet (UV) radiation blocker found in many sunscreens, formed into tiny nanoscale particles. Why use nanoscale titanium dioxide? Because at this small size the particles do not block visible light, and therefore the sunscreen is invisible when applied to the skin and at the same time provides protection from cancer-causing UV radiation.

Titanium dioxide is an excellent UV-blocker, but there has been some concern about its safety because in dry powder form, titanium dioxide is highly toxic when inhaled. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the dry powder form of titanium dioxide as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

It's not yet clear, though, whether other forms of titanium dioxide, such as the nanoparticles used in sunscreen, also pose a risk. More...

Filed Under:

Skin Cancer

Is it a mole or melanoma?

April 30, 2013

By Daniel Mark Siegel, MD, MS


Winter is ending and the temptation to shed some layers comes alive.

But if you do show off your body, pay attention -- particularly if you are a mole-y person with dozens of moles, especially funny looking irregular ones all over the place. You may have a condition called "dysplastic nevus syndrome" or "familial atypical multiple mole-melanoma syndrome," which makes you more likely to develop melanoma.  Nevus is the fancy Latin word for "mole," which is a benign growth, but melanoma is a skin cancer that if not diagnosed and treated early can be lethal.

The difficulties of diagnosing melanoma


Fortunately, there are a lot more nevi (not nevuses) than melanoma.  So how do you tell them apart? Sometimes it is easy for your doctor to reassure you, but other times, even with the use of the skilled eyes of the dermatologist and added magnification, dermoscopy, and other evolving imaging techniques, it's still not clear. In such cases, a biopsy is needed.

A biopsy is where all or part of a mole is removed, sent to the lab, and a report of the analysis comes back. Sometimes the report is straightforward and says "benign mole" with no need for further treatment. Other times it reports a melanoma with descriptive staging terms that guide further therapy. More...

Filed Under:

Skin Cancer

Suntan or Booth Tan: Your Skin Can't Tell the Difference

May 26, 2011

By Vilma Cokkinides, PhD


As summer approaches, we get a lot of reminders to protect our skin from the sun with sunscreen, shade, hats, and long sleeves. What doesn't get mentioned as often is indoor tanning.


Indoor tanning has become popular among young adult women and teenage girls. One chief motivation is that they believe they look more attractive and healthy with a tan. Many teens and their parents think getting a tan indoors is safer than tanning in the sun. But the truth is that tanning booths, lamps, or sunbeds emit ultraviolet (UV) radiation, just as the sun does. And exposure to UV radiation - whether from the sun or from a man-made source -- can raise your risk of skin cancer. More...

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