Despite preventive measures and an increased awareness of the potential risks of sun damage and exposure to UV ray, recent studies continue to show a rise in the number of cases of melanoma. The statistics are particularly alarming for adolescents and young adults, in particular young women, who show the greatest increase. In the most recent study in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, melanoma increased 8-fold among women ages 18 to 39 in Olmstead County, MN. Some of the trend may be attributed to the use of indoor tanning beds, especially in teenagers and young women. UV ray exposure in tanning beds is particularly harmful, because tanning beds can emit 10 to 15 times more UV radiation than the midday sun.

Healthy behavior should be encouraged from a young age, and should include use of broad spectrum water resistant sunscreen with SPF of at least 30, and avoidance of sun exposure during midday hours (10am to 2pm) when UV rays are strongest and most harmful. In addition, regular skin examinations by physicians to identify suspicious moles are critical. Full body “head to toe” assessments including the scalp, face, arms and hands, breast and abdomen, back, legs and feet are necessary to rule out any lesions which may need treatment. In women, almost 1/3 of melanomas were found on the legs, whereas in men, it was most often found on the back. The upper extremity was the 2nd most common site for melanoma in both. Patients are at highest risk of melanoma if they have the following risk factors: family history of melanoma, use of tanning beds, having fair skin, light hair and eyes, and burning easily.

Avoidance of intense UV radiation not only protects against all skin cancers, it also has beneficial effects in terms of protecting against premature skin aging. A daily skin regimen which includes sun protection will result in smoother, tighter skin with fewer wrinkles, and a healthier and more youthful appearance.

Dr. Hutchinson is a board certified plastic surgeon with practices in NYC and Englewood, NJ. She performs excisions of benign, pre-cancerous and malignant skin lesions. Please contact us or call us at 212 452 1400 to schedule a consultation.

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