Healthy and Fit? Why You May Still Be at Risk for Skin Cancer
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"I used to love tanning beds."
Robi Dallow, 41, substitute teacher
Skin story: "Until I was 22, I'd regularly fry with baby oil and light reflectors in the backyard and tanning beds. Local salons would have 'Get your first tan free' deals, and I'd drive around, hitting all of them. I burned and blistered a lot! I've quit indoor tanning, but I rarely wear sunscreen when I run. It always drips in my eyes."
Scan says: "Robi has sun damage and numerous freckles on her chest and shoulders, thanks to her intense UV exposure," Dr. Gray says. "But she has only 25 moles, a low number when it comes to melanoma risk." (Got 100-plus? Your odds jump.) What is risky: Just one blistering sunburn as a child or young adult more than doubles her melanoma chances. And using tanning booths before 35 increases her probability by 75 percent.
The next step: Robi should try wearing UV-protective running gear that carries an ultraviolet protection factor seal, meaning that both UVA and UVB rays are blocked. She also needs to look for a light-textured sweat-proof broad-spectrum sunblock for her body and to reach for a sports stick of SPF 30 to protect her face without the eye-stinging drip. We like Mission Skincare Anti-Sting Sunscreen SPF 30+ Facestick ($8.99, missionskincare.com). "Even though Robi's skin is in the clear now, I recommend she see a dermatologist twice a year, based on her tanning-bed and sunburn history," Dr. Hale says."Melanoma runs in my family."
Liz Liss, 32, interior designer
Skin story: "My grandmother died of melanoma when I was 8. Nine years ago I had two moles taken off my stomach, and now I have a few new ones that worry me. I'm good about sun protection at the beach, but not when I walk outdoors. I can't find a sunblock that doesn't make me break out while exercising."
Scan says: "There is one mole on Liz's calf that looks darker than the others. Being dark isn't necessarily a problem, but because it's different than the rest, it's a good idea to monitor it," Dr. Gray says. (The back of the leg is a top spot for melanoma to develop in women.) Evidence of Liz's UV damage appears mostly on her shoulders and is probably due to walking outdoors in sports tops without protection.
The next step: An every-six-months visit to the derm is needed. "Liz's risk of melanoma is twice that of the average person because of her family history," says Dr. Gray, who suggests Liz share her grandmother's medical records with her doc. "Knowing her grandmother's pathology will help her doctor assess Liz's risk." And a noncomedogenic sunscreen, like Neutrogena Spectrum+ Sunblock Lotion SPF 100 for Face ($11.99, drugstores), will help prevent breakouts.
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