The quest for a beautiful glowing tan continues.

People all over the world are enjoying the sun`s rays, despite warnings that sun exposure causes permanent skin damage and skin cancer.

Lee Ann Hamilton, a health educator and graduate student in higher education, has had three episodes of skin cancer. She found the first when she was only 33.

"I found them early, so they weren`t really bad," Hamilton said. "I`m aware of the signs. I noticed that I had a little rough area that would occasionally bleed. That`s not normal.

"You need to keep an eye on your body because no one else is going to do it for you," she said.

Hamilton said she was never a sun worshiper, but liked to swim a lot and worked outdoors as a lifeguard. She said that, as she has fair skin and burns easily, she is at high risk.

"When I was a kid, nobody put sunscreen on. We didn`t know," she said. "We can`t do anything about the damage that`s already been done, but we can protect our skin from now forward.

"If you notice any change in your skin that doesn`t look normal, get it checked out," she said.

The situation with skin cancer cases in America is getting quite serious. As the American Academy of Dermatology states, one in six Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime, and the number is rapidly growing. However, Queensland in Australia is an infamous world champion in skin cancer occurrence.

The big problem is that people still see a tan as a healthy thing, but in reality, tanning is the skin`s response to sun damage.

Tanning is actually the result of a complex defense mechanism within the skin and it occurs when pigment-producing cells produce and distribute melanin, said Dr. Kevin Welch. When the skin is exposed to the sun, the cells become more active, the melanin gets distributed, and a tan results.

But the sun`s ultraviolet rays also break in the DNA of the cells and the mutations pass on from cell to cell, from generation to generation.

‘’Cancer actually represents cells reproducing without any real control’’, the doctors say.

While light-skinned people are definitely more prone to skin cancer, anybody who is exposed to the sun long enough could eventually get it.

There are three types of skin cancer, and a less dangerous one is not deadly, but their effects may be hard to live with. For example, there is a type of cancer that causes open sores on the face and pieces of flesh can be lost to surgery. Not only can the cancers disfigure a person, but so can the surgery that removes them, she said.

"The most serious type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma, and the reason for it is that melanoma has mobility," dr.Villar-Werstler said. "Once it begins growing in one area, it can spread to other areas, including vital organs. It can grow anywhere in the body."

A person can have a mole that changes one day and six months later the same person can die from melanoma.

But there is some good news. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of all skin cancers can be prevented if one uses suncreams when exposing to sun.

The most important thing to consider when choosing a sunscreen, said Dr. Villar-Werstler, is to "buy a cream according to your skin type and its SPF. Larger SPF means that you can stay longer exposed to sun without a risk of getting sun burnt.

Even protecting yourself occasionally is worthwhile, doctors say.

"It`s not enough, but it`s worthwhile," they say. "It`s like a smoker choosing to smoke only one pack of cigarettes instead of four. He`s still doing damage, but a little bit less."


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