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February 20, 1987

Paler Is Better, Say Skin Cancer Fighters

JAMA. 1987;257(7):893-894. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390070013002

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"THE PORCELAIN LOOK" is not the title of a new spy story or romance novel, but the prescription Sidney Hurwitz, MD, proposes for reversing what dermatologists call an "alarming" increase of skin cancer in this country. The most frightening rise is in the incidence of malignant melanoma, which is greater than that for any other type of carcinoma except lung cancer in women.

For a child born in the United States in the 1930s, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, an organization devoted to promulgating information about the disorders, the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer was 1 in 1500. While for a black child born today the risk is still less than 1 in 1000, it has increased 15-fold for whites, says the foundation—to 1 in 100.

Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, accounts for at least 400 000 cases a year in the United