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Redwood Falls Gazette - Redwood Falls - MN
  • Skin safety

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  • We all know the sun can damage our skin and that sunburns can lead to skin cancer, but what about the alternatives like indoor tanners and lotions? And what SPF (sun protection factor) is right for your skin?
    Two experts weigh in on skin protection, the differences between indoor and outdoor tanning and other sun-related issues. Dr. Janet Prystowsky is a New York City dermatologist with over 20 years of experience and is an associate attending in the Department of Dermatology, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. As director of the society’s Cancer Control Science Department, he focuses on the prevention and early detection of cancer, as well as emerging science and trends in cancer.
    Is any tan safe?
    While many people covet a bronze glow in summer, they should be cautious. It is possible to balance a healthy lifestyle that includes outdoor activity without putting your health in danger, Lichtenfeld said.
    “A tan is not a sign of health; it’s a sign of damage to the skin. You should not seek the sun,” he said. More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, he added.
    Since most people don’t want to head to the beach or pool looking pale, millions head to indoor tanning salons where sun lamps promise a dark, even tan in less than 15 minutes.
    Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re safe, though.
    “Studies have shown that the ultraviolet light (from a tanning bed) penetrates very deeply into the skin. The depth of the rays causes tissue damage that is quite harmful and can lead to all the different kinds of skin cancer: basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma,” Prystowsky said. The vast majority of skin cancers are basal or squamous, and while malignant, these are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma has the tendency to spread and can be fatal.
    “We’re seeing an increase in melanoma in younger people who used tanning beds rather than getting sunburned outside,” Lichtenfeld said.
    As an alternative, tanning lotions or sprays are a better choice, Lichtenfeld said.
    “You should use caution though. What appears to be safe today may not be safe in the long run,” he said.
    Sunless or self-tanning lotions and sprays contain dihydroxyacetone (DHA), which causes a chemical reaction that dyes the skin. Typically, the change will last about a week.
    “There is some concern that you should not inhale the spray,” Prystowsky said. “Be careful and don’t inhale, wear a mask or ask that the tan is applied manually around the face,” she said.
    Sunscreen 101
    Heading out to the pool or park, it can be difficult to know what’s the right sunscreen to use since it’s available from 15 to 100-plus.
    Page 2 of 2 - While we rely on sunscreen as protection, most do not apply it appropriately, Lichtenfeld said. “We don’t use enough, reapply often enough, and we end up getting burned,” he said. With a lotion sunscreen, you really need a whole palm full.
    SPF 15 — if used properly — is enough protection, but people do not use it properly, Lichtenfeld said. “Most experts recommend SPF 30 to 50. Over SPF 50 is not necessary,” he said.
    What is imperative is to read and follow the directions. Make sure you use a broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Reapply after sports, sweating or going in the water.
    To be safe, Lichtenfeld said, “avoid the sun in peak hours. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun-protective clothing and UV sunglasses. Seek the shade and slop on the sunscreen.”
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