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Sunbathers Beware of Skin Cancer, Dermatologists Warn

People might choose to hit beaches during summer in the West, but experts warn of skin cancer .

"Enjoy it, but enjoy it in moderation and with common sense," said Dr. Warren Heymann, head of the division of dermatology at Cooper University Hospital in Camden.

If you're going to be outside, try to stay out of the midday sun, stay in the shade, wear appropriate clothing," use sunscreen and reapply it every two to three hours and after swimming or heavy sweating, he said.

Appropriate clothing includes a hat that covers the scalp, long sleeves if it's not too hot and fabrics that aren't open-weaved or too thin.

A thin, white T-shirt allows the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer and sunburn to penetrate, so sunscreen should be applied underneath, said Dr. Jonathan Lee, a melanoma specialist at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Lee said New Jersey has a high incidence of melanoma, which causes about 3 percent of skin cancer cases but roughly 80 percent of skin cancer deaths nationally. He's not sure why it's so common here, but noted that about 90 percent of skin cancer cases are directly related to sun exposure, with the rest related to genes.

"Some people are a lot more prone to developing skin cancer," Lee said.

Those include fair-skinned people who burn rather than tan, people who have previously had melanoma or have a family history of it, and people with "atypical" moles: ones that are asymmetrical, have jagged borders or varying colors, and are about one-quarter inch in diameter or larger. Those moles and any showing signs of changes should be checked, because skin cancer usually is curable if treated early.

This year, the American Cancer Society estimates about 59,000 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, and about 8,110 will die of it. That's up from about 48,250 new melanoma cases in
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