Does sunbathing and tanning beds really cause skin cancer?

Should I take precautions while sunbathing? 

Yes, you should. Try to acquire your tan slowly in the earlymorning or late afternoon sun. Begin at 15 minutes per day and gradually work up to between 30 and 45 minutes. Avoid blistering sunburns. Avoid midday sun. Use a sunscreen, beginning with the highest sun protection factor (SPF) and gradually decreasing.

What does the term sun protection factor mean? 

Sun protection factor indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning. If a sunscreen has an SPF of 4, it means you can stay out in the sun four times longer than without the screen and not get burned. People with lighter skin need a higher SPF than those with darker skin.

What SPF gives the highest protection? 

The SPF values range from 2 to 15. They are usually numbered 2, 4, 6, 8, 15. Some newer sunscreens have an SPF of 18 and above with the ability to stay on for many hours even when you are wet. Apply at least 30 minutes before going into the sun to allow for good penetration in the skin. You should reapply the screen every 2 hours or after swimming or showering.

Will Sunbathing and Tanning Beds Cause Skin Cancer?


What are the rating values? 

• SPFs 2 to 4 give minimal protection from sunburning and permit suntanning. They are recommended for peopie who rarely burn and who tan easily and deeply.

• SPFs 4 to 6 give moderate protection from sunburning and permit some suntanning. They are recommended for people who tan well with minimal burning.
• SPFs 6 to 8 give extra protection from sunburning and permit limited suntanning. They are recommended for people who burn moderately and tan gradually.

• SPFs of 8 to under 15 give maximum protection from sunburning and permit little or no suntanning. They are recommended for people who always burn easily and tan minimally.

• SPFs of 15 or greater give ultra protection from sunburn and permit no suntanning. SPFs of 15 and higher are recommended for people who always burn easily and never tan.

Sunburn and skin cancer, the burning issue

What is the difference between a sunscreen and a sunblock? 

Sunscreens selectively screen out redness producing rays. Sunblocks screen out everything. If you are the kind of person who cannot tolerate any exposure at all, the best sunblock for you is zinc oxide paste. You can buy this over the counter. If you need even more protection, use a sunscreen with PABA plus a titanium dioxide paste. Your druggest can make this up for you.

Do the rays from sunlamps cause skin cancer? 

Many sunlamps produce ultraviolet radiation that, like ultraviolet rays from the sun, can cause eye injuries, skin burns, and possibly even cancer. In addition, some sunlamps also give out ultraviolet rays of a short wavelength that can be dangerous to the cell structure of your body. Most of the time, the cells repair the damage. But sometimes this results in changes in cell character called mutations. Some mutations may be cancerous. The FDA is developing a performance standard for sunlamps, because they are potentially hazardous. The standard would require that sunlamps prominently display warning labels and that they have timers that shut them off automatically.

How do you get skin cancer from tanning beds? Are suntanning booths safe? 

Early tanning booths used ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation (fluorescent sunlamps) in an attempt to mimic sunlight. Newer booths and beds provide ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation. Ultraviolet B radiation is known to cause skin cancer. Ultraviolet A rays go deeper into the skin and may be more dangerous because they damage deeper lying cells. Longterm effects are unknown, but it is believed that damage is cumulative and the more exposure, the more harm which may be undetectable for many years. People with light skin who have difficulty tanning are particularly at risk and should avoid tanning salons. In addition, many prescription drugs including sulfas and tetracyclines, medications for high blood pressure, tranquilizers, diuretics, some birth control pills, and some oral medications used in treating diabetes may make you painfully sensitive to the intense light in tanning booths.

Tanning, Sun Exposure Increase Risk For Early Skin Cancer


I hear that when you are taking some kinds of medicine you get a worse sunburn. Is that true? 

Yes, it is true. There are some substances that are photosensitizing that is, when you are taking them you can get a bad sunburn from relatively little exposure. Among them are birth control pills, diuretics (prescribed for high blood pressure), oral hypoglycemics (antidiabetic drugs), and phenothiazines (tranquilizers such as Thorazine), sulfa drugs (used for bacterial infections), and antibiotics ending with the suffix cycline (including tetracycline sometimes prescribed for acne). Also watch out for saccharin, halogenated salicylanilides (the active ingredient in deodorant soap), oil ofbergamot (used in most perfumes), and essences oflemon and lime (in many aftershave lotions and bath soaps). Persons taking some of the chemotherapeutic drugs or who have had radiation must be careful to protect their skins from sunburn.

I'm allergic to PABA. What can I use for sunburn protection? 

PABA can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people, such as those who are allergic to anesthetics (benzocaine or procaine), antibiotics, diuretics or aniline dyes. Because most sunscreens contain a form of PABA, you will probably need to ask your pharmacist for help in finding a sunscreen without it. Two products which are PABA free are TiScreen and Piz Buin Exclusiv Extrem.

Be careful when you're reading the labels because PABA comes in several forms. Some of the other names include para amino benzoic acid, glyceryl PABA, octyl dimethyl PABA, padimate O and padimate A. Any of these can irritate your skin if you are allergic to PABA.

I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer. Can I catch cancer from using the suntan lotion? 

No. Cancer is not an illness which you can catch from someone else. Although the exact cause of many cancers is unknown, the results of many tests and studies show that cancer is not contagious in humans. Skin cancer is most often caused by overexposure to the sun. Using the same suntan lotions, swimming in pools where patients swim, or kissing a cancer patient in no way increases the risks of contracting cancer.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

Do black people get skin cancer? 

Most skin cancer is directly related to overexposure to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays, and while black people do indeed develop skin cancer, they do so much less often than people with lighter skin. The pigmentation in their skin, a substance called melanin, protects them. Very fair people are most susceptible to skin cancer.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

I've heard that arsenic causes skin cancer. Is that true? 

Arsenic in the form of Fowler's solution was used to treat problems like asthma and psoriasis some 20 years ago. Doctors are reporting that some people who used arsenic for prolonged periods have developed skin cancer.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

 Are there different kinds of skin cancer? 

Yes, there are two basic common kinds of skin cancer: basalcell cancer and squamous cell cancer. The overwhelming proportion of skin cancers are basal cell cancer. Squamouscell cancers are next most common but are seen much less frequently than basal cell cancers. There are two other conditions which are quite uncommon, but which also appear on the skin. They are malignant melanoma and mycosis fungoides.

What is basal cell cancer? 

Basal cells are spherical and are found in the lowest layer of the epidermis. The cancer involving these cells is the most common kind of skin cancer. You usually notice a lump that is about lA to Vz inch across. The edge of the lump is raised; sometimes the center is depressed and is an open sore. The skin covering it looks tense and shiny, even pearly. The lump enlarges at the point where it began. When it ulcerates in the middle, it becomes covered with a scab or crust. Basal-cell cancer grows slowly and rarely metastasizes, but if not treated for a long time, this slow growing cancer penetrates the layers of tissue below the skin's surface and involves the bone.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

Where is basal cell cancer usually found on the body? 

About 90 percent of these cancers are found on the neck and head. Many times they are found on the face, around the nose or upper lip. They are not usually found on the trunk. Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to the lymph nodes, so usually a simple removal ensures a permanent cure. Since basal cell cancer rarely metastasizes, it is the most curable skin cancer.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

What is squamous cell cancer? 

Most of the epidermis is composed of squamous cells, which are flat. Squamous cell cancer is less common than basalcell but it is more serious, because it is more likely to spread to the lymph nodes and it metastasizes more often. Squamous-cell cancer grows more rapidly than does basalcell cancer. As with basal-cell, you usually first notice it when the lump is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch across. The lump is raised from the skin surface slightly, sometimes looking like a wart. It doesn't have the shiny surface of the basalcell cancer. Instead it is usually scaly without a central pit or ulcer. Squamous cell cancer metastasizes but usually not until the primary cancer has been present for a long time.I borrowed suntan lotion from a person who has skin cancer.

Can you really tell the difference between the two kinds by looking at them? 

A skilled dermatologist or a doctor experienced in detecting skin cancer may be able to tell the difference by looking at the lump in question. However, sometimes the lumps look like benign growths and further tests are needed to determine whether they are cancerous.


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