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Melanoma rates are climbing -- stay safe

July 17, 2008 |  5:00 am

Rates of melanoma among young women have soared, according to a report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology -- and sun exposure plus tanning salons are implicated in the rise.

So this isn't a gratuitous let's-all-stay-safe-this-summer blog post, no siree.

First, as the news item noted, best bets for reducing your risk of melanoma include "avoiding sun exposure when the sun's rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; wearing protective clothing and a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater; and not actively seeking a tan in the sun or a salon."

Next, what kind of sunscreen? A review of sunscreens can be read here. Its top-rated product: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock, which it describes as "an excellent general-use sunscreen. It has avobenzone and oxybenzone for broad-spectrum protection against short- and long-wave UVA rays (the main culprit responsible for long-term skin damage). It also has Helioplex, which can help the active ingredients protect skin for up to five hours."

Those who are especially concerned about chemical additives in sunscreen can reference a different kind of guide, from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, accessible here. The EWG's focus was on selecting sunscreens that are "formulated with the safest chemicals, are most effective at protecting against sunburn, and help prevent long-term damage caused by the sun’s UVA rays." Its ratings are markedly different -- for example, the Neutrogena product topping the prior list receives a low score because of the presence of the UVA blocker oxybenzone (and also fragrance).

Those who want to watch out for melanoma should pay attention to any changes in moles on their bodies. Although most cases of melanoma do not arise from moles, some do. For a recent article on moles, melanoma and the kinds of changes to watch for, go here.

-- Rosie Mestel

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