The USA Weekend article is below. Our comments in [bold brackets].
5 tanning myths exposed
Minimize your chances of melanoma.
You’ve heard melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer (true). You’ve been told that sun exposure is a major risk factor and that you should be regularly checking your body for new or changing moles (also true). Some widely held beliefs about melanoma, however, are not so true, and the misconceptions could put your health at risk. Here are five common myths, and the facts behind the fiction:
Myth: All you need is sunscreen.
Fact: It’s certainly important, but alone, it’s not enough. In addition to using a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB), water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, you should wear a wide-brimmed hat, wrap-around sunglasses (with 99% to 100% UV absorption) and, when possible, a shirt and long pants (made of tightly woven fabrics). Also, seek shade if your shadow appears shorter than you; that’s when the sun is at its strongest, usually from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. [It’s simply not true that exposure to UV radiation needs be minimized or eliminated. Not only is the risk of melanoma relatively small, but the well-established reality is that outdoor workers have a lower incidence of melanoma than indoor workers.]
Myth: Melanomas form only on sun-exposed spots.
Fact: They are more likely to appear on your face, neck, legs and back, but melanomas also can develop on parts that see less sun, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands or fingernail beds. [That melanoma can appear “on parts that see less sun” would seem to militate against UV-melanoma hysteria.] Melanoma is almost always curable when it’s found early — get regular doctor checkups, and about once a month, do a self-exam. Use mirrors to check your body from top to bottom, front to back, under your arms, between fingers and toes, and even nail beds. You’re looking for a mole or marking that is changing in size, shape or color, or one that looks different from any other spot on your body. Melanomas are usually brown or black but can appear pink, tan or even white. Report changes to your doctor.
Myth: Salon tanning is safer than sunbathing.
Fact: Some sunlamps emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. [False. Modern sun beds are only 3-5 time more intense than sunlight — but this is offset by spending less time in them.] And if that’s not reason enough to stay away from the tanning salon: The American Academy of Dermatology reports that indoor tanners are 75% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors, and the risk increases with use. [This is false for a number of reasons. For one, when the study underlying this claim was re-analyzed, the association between tanning salons and melanoma disappeared.] Recently, the FDA proposed stricter regulations on tanning devices, including adding a warning label alerting users to the risk of skin cancer and advising young people to steer clear. Though melanoma is still rare in children, a new study shows that the number of diagnosed cases is rising, with the biggest jump seen among adolescents ages 15 to 19, especially girls. [While the diagnoses of melanoma has increased, death rates from melanoma have stabilized and even declined. This would seem to mean that more benign melanomas are being diagnosed as opposed to the incidence of malignant melanoma being on the rise.]
Myth: Only the fair and freckled are affected.
Fact: It’s true that many (many) more Caucasians develop melanoma than African Americans and Hispanics. It’s also true that having red or blonde hair, blue or green eyes, and light skin that freckles or burns easily raises your risk; and new research takes it one step further, suggesting redheads are at an increased risk, even if they don’t spend time in the sun. Darker-skinned people, however, can and do develop melanoma, usually in less-obvious spots; they are also at a higher risk of death from skin cancer.
Myth: A base tan prevents sunburn
Fact: There’s no such thing as a safe or protective tan. [There is no evidence for this claim. Keep in mind, outdoor workers have less melanoma than indoor workers.]
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