Pale is the new tan, dermatologist tells patients

A Florida dermatologist doesn’t mince words when it comes to skin cancer: Protect yourself from the sun or else.

BRADENTON, Fla. — There’s a framed picture in Dr. Terrence Hopkins’ waiting room at his Manatee Dermatology practice that shows a little girl in a bikini on a beach with a jarring combination of words printed next to it.

The words: “Seashells. Driftwood. Skin cancer.” Underneath that is the sentence: “It’s amazing what kids pick up at the beach.”

Hopkins is not hesitant to talk about its message to parents.

“We want kids not to come down with skin cancer,” Hopkins said. “The more they protect themselves from early on, the better are the chances. What I tell parents these days is that protective clothing is the best thing they can do for their little ones. Little sun hats. Little protective clothing. Things like rash guard outfits like the surfers would wear are ideal. No one is born with freckles. They all develop freckles over time. Skin cancers form the same way. All that sunlight that accumulates over a lifetime from continued sun exposure, that’s what gives you damage to your DNA and that’s what gives you skin cancer.”

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“Pale is the new tan,” Hopkins added. “Being tan is out. That’s what we tell people.”

Hopkins and his staff, including physician assistant Christa Lynn Hall, see about 50 patients a day, where his practice has grown since opening in 1998.

Using precise instruments like a dermatoscope, Hopkins is able to diagnose approximately 50 cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, yearly as well as hundreds of precancerous moles and spots, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas.

“If you catch them early, they are all curable,” Hopkins said.

“Bob Marley, the great Jamaican reggae singer, had melanoma on his toe and did not get it treated,” Hopkins added. “He died from it. But with treatment earlier he potentially could have been saved.”

While the sun’s rays are often the main culprit, Hopkins acknowledges that genetics also play an important role.

Hopkins said that people living in Bradenton, all of Florida and all of the Sunbelt states must take precautions because the strength of the sun’s rays in those areas are strong and increasing.

The American Cancer Society ranks California, Florida and New York as the highest producers of skin cancer and it estimates…

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