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Study: Many melanoma survivors ignore sun risk

Even people who have survived melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, often fail to protect themselves from the sun, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that of 171 melanoma survivors in a U.S. survey, more than 25 percent said they never used sunscreen when outside more than an hour on a sunny day. What's more, 2 percent said they had used tanning beds in the past year.

"They did do a better job of protecting themselves than the average person," said lead researcher Dr. Anees Chagpar of the Yale University School of Medicine. "But there is room for improvement."

Chagpar presented the findings Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Washington.

The results are based on a 2010 government health survey that included 27,120 U.S. adults, 171 of whom reported a history of melanoma.

Melanoma is the least common form, accounting for less than 5 percent of skin cancers in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Still, most deaths from skin cancer are due to melanoma, which often spreads in the body if it's not caught early.

Because too much ultraviolet light is a major melanoma risk factor, experts advise everyone to limit exposure. That means staying in the shade, using sunscreen and covering up while in the sun.

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On days when they were going to be in the sun for more than an hour, one-third of melanoma survivors "always" wore sunscreen, versus 17 percent of other Americans. They were also more likely to always wear a cap (31 percent did) or a long-sleeved shirt (12 percent).

But 27 percent of melanoma survivors said they never put on sunscreen before spending more than an hour in the sun.

What "blew her mind," Chagpar said, was the fact that 2 percent of melanoma survivors visited tanning beds. Other researchers are studying the possibility that tanning is addictive for some people, she said. -- HealthDay

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