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A Tan Is Still Admired, Despite Risks

Survey finds conflicting opinions about suntans and skin cancer

WEDNESDAY, May 12 (HealthDay News) -- Despite significant concerns about skin cancer, a majority of Americans nevertheless think that having a tan is an attractive, desirable and healthy look, a new national survey finds.

The poll was conducted by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) in January, and included just over 7,100 men and women nationwide.

"Our survey highlighted the contradictory feelings that many people have about tanning -- they like the way a tan looks but are concerned about skin cancer, which is estimated to affect about one in five Americans in their lifetime," Dr. Zoe D. Draelos, a dermatologist and consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C., said in a news release.

"What they may not realize is that no matter whether you tan or burn, a tan from the sun or tanning beds damages the skin and can cause wrinkles, age spots and skin cancer," Draelos added. "The challenge is changing the long-standing attitudes about tanning to correlate with people's knowledge about skin cancer."

Among the findings, the survey revealed that 75 percent of the respondents said they would do anything they could to prevent skin cancer, while 80 percent said they were concerned about the disease and thought it was important to protect themselves.

But, at the same time, 72 percent said they thought people look more attractive with a tan, while 66 percent said that people look healthier when tanned. And despite skin cancer concerns, 60 percent said they believed -- mistakenly, according to the AAD -- that sun exposure is generally good for one's health.

"Various reports touting the potential health benefits of sun exposure for vitamin D production are misleading people to believe that exposing oneself to UV radiation -- which causes cancer -- to prevent another disease is somehow beneficial," Draelos said. "Getting vitamin D from a healthy diet, which includes naturally enriched vitamin D foods, fortified foods and beverages, and/or vitamin supplements, is a healthier alternative because it provides the exact same benefit without the skin cancer risk."

The AAD, which has designated May as "Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month," advises against any form of tanning activity, whether from sun exposure or tanning beds.

More information

For more on sun exposure and skin cancer risk, visit the American Academy of Dermatology.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, news release, May 10, 2010

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