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Women's Health

The Lies Women Tell Their Doctors

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THE LIE: "I don't smoke."

When Pamela Douglas, M.D., a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC, asks women if they smoke, she often hears a little moment of hesitation before they say no. "They believe you need to smoke two packs a day to be at risk," she explains. "They say they don't smoke them all the way down or they're not really inhaling. If they've only been smoking a year or two or they don't smoke every day, they think they're not really smokers."

WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: Reality check: If you light up, even if it's only one on the weekends, even if you just bum a drag from your friend, you smoke. Beyond an increased risk for sinus and upper respiratory infections, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and, yes, lung cancer, lighting up — even occasionally — raises your risk for blood clots and stroke if you're also using hormone-based contraceptives (pills, patches, rings). "If there's a pause when I ask them if they smoke and they say, 'No' or 'Maybe once a month,' I'm hesitant to give that woman a prescription for the Pill" to help clear up her skin, says David Bank, M.D., medical director of the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, NY. Tell the truth so you and your doc can figure out a safe option together.

THE LIE: "I use sunscreen every day."

spilled_sunscreen_bottle_lies"Along with 'I'm not tan — this is my natural skin color,' this one's at the top of the list of lies we hear all day," chuckles Bank. "We ask every patient whether they use sunscreen every day, and about 10 percent to 20 percent of the responses we get are false or exaggerated."

WHY YOU SHOULD COME CLEAN: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States; since 1980, the rate of melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) has jumped by 50 percent for women between the ages of 15 and 39, according to new research from the National Cancer Institute. If you admit you're not slathering on sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher, applied liberally to exposed areas), your doctor may schedule more frequent screenings — this way, if skin cancer does develop, it'll be caught early. Being truthful about sunscreen use can also help him decide whether to prescribe certain meds, like Retin-A for acne and wrinkles, that can make you more sensitive to the sun.

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