I’m a fair skinned person. That’s the nice way of putting it. Here’s a more vivid description. If I were an actress on The Walking Dead, the makeup artist would just need to add wounds and blood to turn me into a realistic zombie. Sometimes I question whether I’m even human, especially when my richly pigmented friends look at me quizzically when I apply sunscreen before going outside. But their mocking is not going to stop me from protecting my skin. I know we humans can’t just re-grow this most vital organ! I told them I’d gather some facts so they’d stop looking at me like I have tentacles for ears.

PlumbTalk Women had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Dr. Ted Schiff of Water’s Edge Dermatology. Dr. Schiff is a skin cancer specialist in Palm Beach County Florida, who is double board certified in dermatology and dermatopathology. The information he shared is extremely valuable and may even save lives.

The Most Common Form of Cancer

According to Dr. Schiff, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and the world. Each year in the U.S., more than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with it. The most common form is called basal cell carcinoma or BCC. The next most common is squamous cell carcinoma or SCC. Then there’s the most dangerous form – melanoma. Out of the 700,000 people every year who are given the news that they have melanoma, nine to ten thousand will die from it. Needless to say, it is a very serious form of skin cancer.

Not many people die from BCC or SCC, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the problem. Those cancerous lesions can grow and become unsightly or cause severe irritation. Some will bleed. There’s still a risk of dying from them, but because they normally don’t metastasize, they’re not as dangerous as melanoma.

As outlined by Dr. Schiff, most skin cancers are easily spotted, and if they are caught early enough, the five-year survival rate is 95% or even higher. Depending on the type of cancer it is, treatment could include cryotherapy (otherwise known as freezing), excision, scraping and burning, or even radiation or topical creams.

Most of us know that being in the sun without protection can be hazardous to your health. Just having one severe sunburn that causes blistering doubles your odds of getting skin cancer! Five sunburns of any kind, blistering or no blistering, doubles your odds as well.

Tanning Beds

When asked if tanning beds are a “safe” alternative, Dr. Schiff’s response was simple and straightforward.

“Indoor tanning is a big no-no. The number of cases of melanoma, especially among Caucasian women under 40, has grown exponentially over the last two decades. We can place a lot of the blame on indoor tanning salons.”

Dr. Schiff pointed out that the vast majority of new melanoma cases in women under 40 are caused by visits to the tanning salon. Sure, the salon employee will tell you their coffin-shaped devices are safe “if you’re responsible about it.” This is a lie. In fact, tanning beds emit two to four times the UVA rays than the sun does at noon! Skincancer.org says that if you go to tanning salons, your odds of getting melanoma are increased by 74%!

“But I tan,” you say. Well, when you get a “tan” you are still damaging your skin. Here’s what skincancer.org has to say about tanning:

“A tan, whether you get it on the beach, in a bed, or through incidental exposure, is bad news, any way you acquire it. Tans are caused by harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps, and if you have one, you’ve sustained skin cell damage.”


Are you studying your skin as you read this? Are you wondering what that mark is? Dr. Schiff says you can easily check yourself, and he recommends doing it once a month. Look for ABCDE – Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, and Evolving. If you do spot something suspicious, see your dermatologist immediately. Skincancer.org has a handy body diagram you can print to help maintain records. The site also has pictures that show each type.


We’ve laid out the facts, but I know what you’re thinking. I really want a tan! Well, you can go into the sun safely if you protect yourself. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which assists in protecting your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Dr. Schiff stresses the importance of reapplying if you’re out more than two hours. He says most people underuse lotion, so slather it on! He goes on to state that everyone is well protected with an SPF of 30. Anything higher is generally a waste of money.

Remember that a bronzed body may come with a significant price. Be aware of the risks and be responsible. Your skin will be protected, and you can prevent premature aging, too!

To contact Dr. Ted Schiff please access Water’s Edge Dermatology’s website at: http://www.wederm.com/Practitioners

For more information about skin cancer, visit http://www.skincancer.org and http://www.AAD.org.



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