We all want to avoid melanoma; the most frightening of skin cancers.

Few people challenge the fact that tanning increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, excellent research has shown that high schoolers that tan indoors 6 times a year increase their risk of basal cell carcinoma by 82% over non-tanners. Even one trip to the tanning bed increased their risk by 10%.

We understand that early melanoma detection is often life saving and that we should check all of our skin frequently for suspicious moles that might become  melanoma. Moles come in different colors and shapes. Many people learn the ABCDE of mole exam and check for A asymmetry, B odd borders, C strange colors, D diameter more than 6mm, and now we have added E evolving or changing moles. Any positive finding means – head over to the dermatologist pronto.

But what else might we do to lower our risk of developing melanoma?

We know that melanoma sometimes runs in families. We can’t and don’t necessarily want to change our genes. So what else can we do?

Recent studies have confirmed with excellent scientific data that we can decrease our melanoma risk.  Use sunscreens when in the summer sun and totally avoid indoor tanning during the winter months.

A report from Australia (considered the melanoma capital of the world) showed that sunscreen use substantially reduced the risk of melanoma. Now, the Skin Cancer Foundation has warned that indoor tanners are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those that have never tanned indoors. A recent Harvard Medical School study showed that people who tan indoors just four times a year increase their melanoma risk by 11%.  Even more troubling is the finding that younger tanners are especially at risk.

But it is hard to believe that there are some that still question the link between tanning and melanoma. I still meet patients that are convinced their tanning doesn’t increase melanoma risk. They strongly contend that a little sun a couple of times a week provides a healthy wholesome vitamin D boost and should be beneficial to all of us.

I say to them, being low in vitamin D is a vitamin D deficiency; take an oral vitamin D supplement as advised by your family doctor or internist. You probably would need extremely frequent tanning sessions to keep up your vitamin D needs and that would only increase your melanoma risk.

As life expectancy increases, I see more and more seemingly sun-related skin cancers. And more and more severely sun-damaged faces that seek out my advice for skin rejuvenation. I say it again and again. First, cause no more damage. Avoid all tanning. Second, examine your skin for changing moles by using our ABCDE guide. Then, let’s talk about what we, at The Skin Care Center, can do to make you look  and feel your best at any age.