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Cancer Health Center

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Too Many Melanoma Survivors Skip Sunscreen

And 2 percent continue to use tanning beds, researchers report


"We were very surprised by that," Chagpar said. What "blew her mind," though, was the fact that 2 percent of melanoma survivors visited tanning beds.

She noted that other researchers are studying the possibility that tanning is addictive for some people. It's possible, Chagpar speculated, that even some melanoma survivors may be hooked on the experience.

A dermatologist not involved in the study agreed that some of the findings are troubling. "It is certainly concerning that a quarter of the melanoma survivors never wear sunscreen," said Dr. Hensin Tsao, a melanoma expert at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

On the other hand, Tsao said he was "encouraged" by the fact that melanoma survivors were more serious about sun protection than the average person. That suggests that the message is getting through to many, he noted.

What's not clear, according to Tsao, is whether people recently treated for melanoma were any more likely to protect themselves when compared to survivors who beat the disease years ago. It is possible that the farther you are away from the experience, the less vigilant you'll be about UV protection.

"My sense is that if the study stratified by time from diagnosis, there would naturally be an erosion of the sun-protective behaviors," Tsao said.

But, Chagpar said, survivors need to remember that their increased risk of developing another melanoma "never goes away."

"There is no question that exposure to UV radiation increases your risk of melanoma," she said. "For survivors, it's particularly important to protect yourself."

According to the American Cancer Society, about 76,700 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year. An estimated 9,500 Americans will die of the disease.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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