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Mayo Clinic Study Shows Dramatic Increase In Skin Cancer Cases

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Doctors are warning people about a significant increase in non-melanoma skin cancers.

A new Mayo Clinic study shows that between 2000 and 2010, there was a 263 percent increase of squamous cell carcinoma compared to past years. There was also a 145 percent increase of basal cell carcinomas in the same time period.

"It's just the perfect time to go out, get some vitamin D," said Abbi Whipps who was walking her dog Monday evening in Loring Park. "All the fun stuff happens when it's warm."

But bathing in its beauty isn't always the healthiest idea said Dr. Amanda Tschetter, a dermatological surgeon at the University of Minnesota. "We know that sun shining on moles causes more and more mutations, getting it closer and closer to melanoma," she said.

Dr. Tschetter feels the spike in skin cancer is comparable to an epidemic. She said genetics and the sun's UV rays take some of the blame, but tanning beds greatly amplify the risk.

"You have a 75 percent increased risk of developing a melanoma if you've used indoor tanning beds. So it's very similar to that we know how cigarettes are associated with lung cancer," she said.

She still encourages her patients to enjoy the outdoors, but hopes they'll wear cover up their skin if possible, or at the very least wear sunscreen. Whipps had some sunburn on her shoulders from the weekend but made sure to thrown on some sunblock before heading outside Monday.

"I don't really mind the sunburn itself, so it's more of the down the road, 'What's going to happen,'" she said.

Keeping an eye on your skin is also key, especially watching if moles form or change.

"Looking (at your skin) once a month, it can help you notice if any of those spots have changed which is one of the most important risk factors to watch for, that something could be a skin cancer is that if it's changing from one month to the next," said Dr. Tschetter.

She added that a recent study by the American Academy of Dermatology showed women were nine times more likely to pay attention to their skin than men. That's why she's encouraging people to not only check themselves in the mirror, but check loved ones who might not be thinking about the concerns.

"If you aren't looking you're not going to know. So I encourage my patients to look at their skin where the sun does and does not shine once a month," said Dr. Tschetter.

If you wear sunblock she said it must be at least SPF 30, broad spectrum, and people should reapply every two to three hours. She added that some sunblock brands might advertise as "sport" or "water resistant," she but she there is no such thing as "water proof."

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