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Four myths about suntanning: Don’t tell me you still believe these.

November 18, 2014

One of the nicest things about living in Hawaii is the abundant sunshine. But I quickly discovered: the very sun that blesses the islands with blissful warmth and light also increases your odds of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is on the rise in all of the Hawaiian islands, according to Dr. Karen Yamamoto, a dermatologist in private practice in Honolulu.

In fact, among certain groups such as Caucasian women and Hispanic men, the rise is considered epidemic. Dr. Yamamoto and other experts blame on these on these enduring myths about tanning:

1. A base tan will protect your skin.
“Completely, utterly bogus,” says Dr. Yamamoto. “Tanned skin is damaged skin, period. So if you’re lying out at the swimming pool without protection, thinking you’re putting on some kind of skin glove, you’re kidding yourself. Later, you’ll just be piling on additional damage.” If your so-called base tan was acquired from a tanning bed, be very worried. Each time you lay supine on those beds, you are significantly increasing your odds of developing skin cancer. Those UVA rays emitted from the beds are extremely powerful.

2. Skin cancer is largely a Caucasian disease.
Fair-skinned people of northern European descent are more likely to burn than other groups, but skin cancer strikes every population. Hispanics are developing skin cancer in the U.S. at a faster rate than any other population group, according to a Skin Cancer Foundation study.

3. You can’t burn on a cloudy day.
“Completely erroneous,” says Dr. Yamamoto. “You need sun protection all day, every day, year-round. Because of our close proximity to the equator, the sun over Hawaii is especially powerful.”

4. Using sunblock will deplete your body of Vitamin D.
This myth persists, according to the National Skin Cancer Foundation, because many northerners absorb less vitamin D during the winter months.  “But you still absorb the vitamin through your hair, scalp, and fingernails,” says Dr. Yamamoto. To be on the safe side, take a vitamin D supplement each day.

One Surprising Truth:

Skin cancer is usually curable.
If caught and treated in time, even the deadliest form of skin cancer can be treated successfully, according to the National Skin Cancer Foundation. Early detection is key. Check your body every month for moles that have grown or changed shape. If you’re over 30, schedule a professional skin consultation once a year. If you have a family history of skin cancer, have a dermatologist check your skin twice a year.

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