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SOLAR PRECAUTIONS: Pr e v e n t i n g S k i n D a m a g e By Sabrina Mustic Illustration By Kiel Mutschelknaus


h, summer! The sunny days are finally here. Although there are many things one could be doing during this time of year, most of us like to do the one thing we should not be doing, which is hanging out

by the pool or beach and frying our skin. Knowing the side-effect of too much sun does not stop us from worshiping the rays.


The words “skin cancer” do not cross our mind as we go out day after day without the proper sun protection. Most of us have endured painful sunburns, but unfortunately we do not learn from painful sunburns, in fact we forget about them and continue exposing our biggest organ. But eventually all the sun exposure we think nothing of turns into those two words that do not cross our mind as we soak up the sun. Skin cancer. Sanford Clinic’s Dermatologist, Dr. David Shields, shares important information about a cancer that is the most common type of human cancer and on the rise. According to Dr. Shields, “There are three main types of skin cancer. Basel cell and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common; melanoma is the most serious one.” Each cancer is named after the cell that it comes from. Basel cell cancer begins in the lowest layer of the epidermis and squamous cell cancer starts in the upper part of the epidermis. When pigment cells (melanocytes) become malignant melanoma occurs. Dr. Shields says “the main cause of skin cancer is sun exposure and long-term ultraviolet light exposure.” He goes on to explain, “ultraviolet light damages DNA and there is a mechanism within our body that fixes that but eventually [the mechanism] gets broken down by the same thing that is damaging the DNA. [Also] as we age the repair mechanism wears out.” So how do you know if you have skin cancer? Dr. Shields says, “Most of the time the symptoms are what you feel and report. Skin cancer doesn’t hurt or itch, doesn’t give us a fever. Most of the time it’s something you can see, a lesion, bump, or pimple that doesn’t heal normally. Melanoma is usually dark, so look for a new mole or any mole that is irregular or has scalloped borders, has more than one color, and anything that is bigger than a pencil eraser, or if something is evolving or changing.” The most common areas for melanoma in

June 2009  
June 2009  

605 Magazine June 2009 Edition