Some blistering facts about sun exposure and the damage it causes, especially in kids and young adults. A local dermatologist sheds light on the statistics while warning everyone to cover up.
Rachel Cohen: "I feel good when I am tan. Everything just looks better when you are tan."
When 25-year-old Rachel Cohen isn't baking cookies at Manny's Deli in Chicago, she's baking her body in the sun, a habit she fell in love with in grade school.
Rachel Cohen: "It started in fifth grade when everyone started going away for winter break and when you came home you had to be the darkest person. It was a competition and I had to win. And I did."
She may have crushed the competition with her killer tan, but now Rachel faces a new opponent -- sun damage.
Rachel Cohen: "I guess it's from burning my chest over and over again and when I was 23 I woke up one morning and they were there. And it was sad."
Sun spots -- the first outward signs of sun damage.
Rachel Cohen: "Did it change my habits? No. I hate to say it, but no. Still in the sun, you will find me at the pool."
You'll also find her here, at the dermatologist's office. With sun spots popping up, Rachel comes in to have her skin checked.
Rachel Cohen: "So the first one I look at, is right here, the big one on my chest."
A routine biopsy will show whether the lesion is cancerous, but there's no test to determine Rachel's future risk.
Dr. Amy Brodsky, dermatologist: "Most of your sun damage happens at a young age."
That's just one statistic dermatologist Amy Brodsky shares with her sun-worshiping patients. The others are equally alarming.
Dr. Brodsky: "One blistering sunburn increases skin cancer risk by 50%, and just five sunburns alone can increase your chance of cancer by 50%. And it is alarming that one person dies of melanoma every hour and people just don't realize that."
It's not the most common form of skin cancer, but it is the deadliest. For women between the ages 25 and 30, it's the leading cause of cancer death.
Dr. Brodsky: "So before the age of 40 it's most likely to be women, after 40 men."
And when it comes to tanning beds, anyone younger than 18 who sits inside drives up the risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
Dr. Brodsky: "Tan is actually radiation and inflammation. It's not healthy."
That's why Dr. Brodsky is focusing on the young -- kids who can form safe sun habits that will protect them well into adulthood.
Dr. Brodsky: "Those are the people we can change. We can't change what's already happened. Once you have your sun damage it is very hard to reverse it. But if we can prevent it, which is exactly what we can do with kids, why not do it? I'm not saying they shouldn't have fun. But, in the hours of 10 am to 3 pm, they should protect themselves. They should reapply sunscreen every two hours. You should put on at least two ounces of sunscreen every two hours, so that is two shot glasses worth of sunscreen. They should wear hats. They should wear shirts."
Dr. Brodsky: "We need to change the image. We need to tell people that fair is beautiful."
And if you are diagnosed with melanoma, doctors will tell you, unlike other cancers, there are no effective treatments. There is a great deal of study though and this weekend there is a fundraising effort for research. Join me in the Teb's Troops Miles for Melanoma race this Sunday at Montrose Harbor, where there will also be free skin screenings.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times