A study finds cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are rising sharply among younger American women, but not men. One Iowa expert says some women clearly aren’t getting the message about the risks of tanning. Dr. William Holtze, a dermatologist at the Iowa Clinic in Des Moines, says he sees more women than men by far. Dr. Holtz says he was stunned by two young women he treated recently, one in her early 20s, the other, in her early 30s. "Their level or degree of tanning was actually very frightening to me. They were so tan, it was just scary," Dr. Holtze says. "I could hardly imagine how they won’t be getting skin cancers. In fact, this one in her early 30s had two skin cancers at one time that she really hadn’t suspected."
The study found a 50-percent increase in the annual number of melanoma cases for young adult Caucasian women between 1980 and 2004. The women surveyed were between 15 and 39. Dr. Holtze says some women in the younger generation apparently regard having a dark tan and looking fashionable as being more important than their health. "I, every now and then, see a very elderly lady that grew up in the generation when having a tan was bad because that implied that they were not of the gentrified class and they were out working in the fields," Holtze says. "Those people that have protected themselves for all of their life, they can be in their 80s and have virtually no wrinkles."
Even though it’s summertime and sunshine is plentiful in the Midwest, many tan-seekers will use tanning beds for a faster, more even tan. Holtze says tanning beds can be even more damaging than being outside in full sunlight. "They may not cause more skin cancer than the sun, it may be the same. They probably cause wrinkling much faster than the sun because the rays penetrate more deeply," Holtze says. "Ultraviolet-A penetrates more deeply than ultraviolet-B and will cause wrinkling even faster than the sun. Even if someone’s not afraid of skin cancer, they might prefer not to have the wrinkles."
Holtze offers several tips, like never deliberately sunbathe, as there’s no such thing as a "safe" tan, not even from tanning beds. "Slip, slop, slap," for, slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat. Always use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and if you have to be tan, for whatever psychological reasons, get a spray tan or put on a self-tanner.