Skin cancer a serious threat of sun, tanning beds


A group of doctors at three local Memorial Hermann hospitals gave free skin cancer screenings Saturday to try to prevent the problem.

Hours spent in the sun will take a toll on anyone's skin, causing premature aging and wrinkles.

Cosmetic consequences aside, there is a far more serious risk from soaking up the sun: skin cancer. That's why Sharon Ardelean was having her skin examined by a dermatologist Saturday.

"I had a lot of sunburns -- blistering sunburns -- and as a young adult I was in the tanning beds on a regular basis," Ardelean said.

Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles your chance of developing malignant melanoma -- the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Ardelean has already had two less serious forms of skin cancer known as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

"I've had between 75 and 100 removed," she said.

A doctor told Ardelean on Saturday that her issues are likely a function of genetics, sun exposure and tanning booth exposure.

Artificial sun poses an even higher risk than the real thing, experts say. Research shows people who use tanning beds before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 7 percent, and even occasional use of tanning beds can almost triple the risk. The damage done today can show up decades later.

"Twenty years later, people get melanomas and skin cancers because the UV damage [causes] cancer to develop," said Dr. Carl Roundtree, a dermatologist with Memorial Hermann.

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer. For Caucasians, it's one in three.

You can reduce your risk by wearing protective hats and clothing and using a high SPF sunscreen every day, even when it's not sunny.

Doctors say having your skin looked at from head to toe each year is just one more way to be sun-smart.

Ardelean is hoping young people will see her story and ban the tan.

"Let them look at my arms and look at my legs and explain to them the seriousness, or at least use me as a poster child. This is what's going to happen to you," she said.

Texas is one of many states that have restrictions on tanning bed use. No one younger than 16 and a half can use them, and you need parental consent if you are under age 18.

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