Some people are so determined to achieve a bronze glow that not even the threat of skin cancer can deter them from seeking the perfect tan. Unfortunately, this devotion to the sun comes at a high price. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer in his or her lifetime. The problem is even more serious for those living in Texas and other Sunbelt states, where one in 3 people will develop the cancer. While most people don’t take the disease seriously, it can be deadly. In fact, someone dies of skin cancer every hour. People of all ethnic groups and skin types who have had considerable sun exposure are at risk for skin cancer. However, several factors may increase your risk of developing skin cancer. ‘ You always burn or burn easily; ‘ You have light skin; ‘ You have blond, red or light brown hair, and blue, green or gray eyes; ‘ You have a history of blistering sunburns in childhood; ‘ You notice unusual spots or moles; ‘ You have a family history of skin cancer or have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer. The physicians of the Texas Medical Association urge you to protect your skin and minimize your risk to avoid becoming one of the more than one million Americans who will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year. There are many ways to protect yourself from long-term sun damage: ‘ Use sunscreen that has at least a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 15 and that protects against both types of ultraviolet (UV) rays, UVB and UVA. Not all sunscreens do. Reapply often, especially after swimming or sweating. ‘ Avoid the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., the hours when the sun’s unltraviolet rays are the strongest. UV rays can be reflected off sand, water, snow, tile and buildings. ‘ When you are in the sun, wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, head, ears and neck from damage. ‘ Wear sunglasses, because the sun also causes cataracts. Sunglasses should block 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. ‘ Avoid tanning salons, since artificial UV radiation is just as bad for your skin as sunlight. ‘ Review the daily UV index’a scale of 0 to 10+’before going in the sun. The higher the number, the greater your risk of exposure to UV radiation. Caught early, most skin cancer is curable. But how do you know if you have it’ Watch for new moles on your skin or changes in the size, shape or color of existing moles. If you see any oozing, crusting or bleeding, or notice any more subtle changes on your skin, contact your physician immediately. The Texas Medical Association is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 37,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 118 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective is to improve the health of all Texans.