Women Vulnerable, Young Adult Skin Cancer Rates On the Rise


By Heather VacLav

Spring is here and for many Alabamians that means spending time in the sun or the tanning bed to create a desired golden glow.


However, a new study from the Mayo Clinic shows the most dangerous type of skin cancer is now more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago, and women are especially vulnerable.


The study says cases of melanoma largely increased since 1970 for women in their 20s and 30s. Fortunately, new technology in another study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reveals that ultraviolet, or UV Photography may show pertinent information about the skin cancer risks that can’t be seen by simply looking at someone’s face.


In Millbrook, Dr. Marla Wohlman has a skin analysis machine that takes the UV pictures. The photographs reveal potential signs for future skin cancer like melanoma. While reporting on this story, CBS-8’s Heather VacLav had photographs taken of her face and examined by Dr. Wohlman.


“By taking different photographs, [the image shows] what kind of pigment damage there is from the sun, what kind of vascular or red damage [there is] from the skin, as well as how deep the pores are and how much elasticity there is in the skin,” Wohlman said.


While Heather VacLav’s results did not indicate future signs of skin cancer, Dr. Wohlman says she has found it in other patients.


Researchers from the Mayo Clinic’s study say the dramatic rise in melanoma rates among the young is most likely due to increased use of tanning beds, as well as other unsafe exposures to ultraviolet light, like severe sunburns in childhood.


“Originally tanning beds were promoted because it restricted the UV rays,” Dr. Wohlman said, “But it's come out now that it doesn't matter, the rays that you get in a sun bed are just as carcinogenic as the rays in the sun.”


And as spring turns to summer, Dr. Marla Wohlman says people need to be actively protecting themselves from the sun.


“I believe that anybody needs to have sunscreen on, at all times every day, especially living [in Alabama],” she said.


While Dr. Wohlman’s office offers treatments for sun damage, once a mole or spot turns cancerous, it is irreversible.


“Chronic, repeated sun damaged skin is more difficult,” Wohlman said, “And the only way to prevent that is to stay out of the sun and wear the sunscreens and take the antioxidants needed to keep your skin healthy.”

Both the Mayo Clinic’s research and Dr. Wohlman suggest the following ways to protect your skin and reduce the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers:

  • Stay out of the sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing with a tight weave, including a hat with a brim to shade your ears and neck, a shirt with sleeves to cover your arms, and pants.
  • Use a sunscreen every day with an SPF of at least 30. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB.
  • Examine yourself regularly for changes on your skin, such as new moles or changes to old moles, and talk to your doctor about having a skin exam done by a health care professional.
  • How to Identify Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-cancer/DS00190/DSECTION=symptoms


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