In The News
Dr. Lawrence Samuels, St. Luke's Hospital
If you must have a tan, take the sunless route to keep your skin healthy
Tanning beds can be a favorite of both men and women, but the damage they cause can lead to premature aging of the skin (wrinkles) and skin cancer, such as melanomas. Sunless tanning products are safe and avoid the damaging ultraviolet rays while giving the skin a tanned appearance.
Melanomas occur most often in people who have light-colored hair or light-colored eyes. Their skin is more susceptible to ultraviolet light rays. Any woman who freckles and burns in the sun regularly without tanning has an increased risk. A woman who has a large number of moles (greater than 25) is also melanoma-prone.
Treatment for a melanoma usually involves surgically removing the cancerous skin cells and some normal tissue surrounding the cancer site. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, they may need to be removed. Subsequent chemotherapy or immunotherapy may also be needed.
What should women look for? Use the "ABCDE" method:
- Asymmetry: Melanomas generally have an irregular shape.
- Border irregularity: The border is irregular and often notched.
- Color variation: Although melanomas are usually dark brown or black, they may sometimes have a range of colors including tan, brown, blue, pink or white.
- Diameter: Eventually melanomas become larger than ordinary moles. Any pigmented spot that is greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (the size of a regular pencil eraser) should be examined and followed carefully.
- Evolution: Some early melanomas begin to increase in size, elevation, color or sensation. A lesion that begins to change in this fashion should be checked immediately.
Melanoma in advanced stages is difficult to treat. So, avoid the urge to visit tanning salons, and use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. If you experience any of the "ABCDE" signs, see your physician.
Dr. Lawrence Samuels
is the chief of dermatology at St. Luke's Hospital. To learn more about early detection and the treatment of skin cancer, call 314-576-7343.
This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 2, 2013.