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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:
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.