Healthy and Fit? Why You May Still Be at Risk for Skin Cancer
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"I burn no matter what."
Jun Kim, 27, consultant
Skin story: "Last year I played softball with my company team about five hours a week. I wore moisturizer with SPF on my face, but I burned so badly that my skin still looks tan months later. This also happens when I run. No matter what I do to protect my skin, I burn. But I've never bothered to do a skin check."
Scan says: Despite her tendency to burn, Jun's skin is in good shape. (Her skin can better withstand UV damage because of its extra melanin.) "But since Jun has a burn history, she's upped her skin cancer risk," Dr. Hale notes. Her more immediate, and solely cosmetic, worry: the tan that won't go way. "It's actinic bronzing, a common problem for Asian women," Dr. Hale says. "Too much sun increases the size and number of melanin-producing cells in her skin."
The next step: Scans suggest that a darkened mole on Jun's face is harmless, but lasering it off -- Jun's first idea -- is risky. "You should never laser a mole, even if it looks benign," Dr. Hale says. "It will destroy any sign of melanoma, so you likely won't be able to detect the disease until too late," Dr. Gray explains. The better option: Have a skilled surgeon remove and biopsy all moles instead. For daily protection, Jun can stick with her SPF-infused moisturizer. On softball days a sports sunblock is best. If no moles change, she can visit the derm every two to three years, Dr. Gray says.
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