Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Does being tan cause skin cancer?"
I stay tan all year around because I lay out in the sun and use tanning beds. Will I get skin cancer? Do you get it just from being tan or is it from little weird marks on your body?
Skin cancer is a significant health risk, and it is one of the few cancers in which there has been a marked increase in incidence over the last decades. There are three different types of skin cancer--basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma. Overall, all types of skin cancer are associated with the damaging ultraviolet radiation that come from sun exposure, but the first two are treatable if caught early. Melanoma, on the other hand, can be an extremely aggressive malignancy that is often fatal. Just because you use tanning beds or lay out in the sun does not categorically mean that you will get skin cancer. However, there is no doubt that this kind of sun and radiation exposure does significantly increase your risk of developing the disease because the same radiation that causes the tan is also what causes DNA damage that leads to cancer. In general, people at the greatest risk of skin cancer include: those with light skin/hair/eyes; history of significant sun exposure without sunscreen; history of blistering sunburns. The best way to protect your health is to minimize your sun exposure and make sure to wear sunscreen. If you are going to continue with tanning, you should definitely have regular skin checks with your primary care physician or a dermatologist. Your primary doctor can take a more detailed history of your sun exposure and your family history in addition to closely examining your skin to catch any changes.
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