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Sunbathers Beware of Skin Cancer, Dermatologists Warn

2002, when deaths were slightly higher at about 9,900, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In New Jersey, new melanoma cases rose by about 50 percent from 1999 through 2002, then dipped slightly in 2003, the latest year for which data are available.

Including less dangerous skin cancers such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, there are more than 1 million new U.S. cases a year, almost as many as all other cancers combined, said Alan Conney, director of the Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rutgers University.

Reasons for the increase in cases include the thinning of the ozone layer, use of tanning salons and people going outside more and wearing less clothing compared to decades ago when attire covered more skin, said Conney.

He's been doing tests in mice on two substances that appear to prevent cells whose DNA has been damaged by ultraviolet light from turning cancerous. He's about to start testing them in people to try to develop a protective cream or oral medicine, but that could be years away.

People should check sunscreen labels to see exactly what the product does; the SPF, or sun protection factor, listed on the bottle only refers to protection against ultraviolet B rays, which primarily cause sunburn. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are the main cause of skin cancer and premature aging, so sunscreens that provide broad UVA and UVB protection are best.

Older sunscreens block UVB rays well, but are less effective against UVA. Newer products do a better job against UVA rays but are much more expensive, Heymann said.

Products with the ingredients Helioplex or Mexoryl are "photo stable," so they aren't broken down quickly by UVA rays and work for a few hours. Chemical-free blockers containing titanium oxide or zinc oxide, which also protect well against both UVA and UVB rays, are a particularly good choice for anyone experiencing r
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