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Golden glow no more

On tanning and basal cell carcinoma

Published

By Dr. Kaycee Reyes

Bronzed skin can make you look healthy and glowing, but before you go out and tan, listen up. Did you know that skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer today? Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a type of skin cancer that has slowly been rising in the last 30 years. Do you think you are at risk? Let’s find out.

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Skin cancer can be classified into two types: melanoma and non-melanoma. BCC is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer that is common among pale or lighter-skinned individuals, including Caucasians, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanics. Those with fair skin are more susceptible to BCC as darker-skinned individuals naturally have more melanin in their skin that can better shield the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. But those with constant and prolonged ultraviolet exposure, regardless of skin color, may also be at risk as UV exposure is a main cause of BCC. This means spending long periods under the sun (whether due to tanning, sports, or by one’s profession).

And while BCC is not hereditary, the skin characteristics of an individual can be passed on (like one’s skin color). On the upside, BCC rarely spreads on the body. It is highly treatable with early detection. BCC may vary in appearance, from a scaly patch of skin to a small inflamed lump that usually appears on the face, ears, and neck, but may also appear on other parts of the body.

This is why, while BCC can easily be diagnosed by a dermatologist, they still take a skin sample of the affected area (skin biopsy) to verify the condition. Once diagnosed, the patient is given different treatment options, depending on the size, location, and quantity of BCC on the body.

Forms of treatment include:

  • Excision of the BCC with four millimeters extension or Moh’s Surgery
  • Cryotherapy by freezing the affected area to stop the growth of BCC
  • Curettage and cautery by removing the affected skin and applying heat
  • Radiotherapy using radiation to treat the area
  • Vismodegib, a type of chemotherapy drug taken by patients with multiple BCCs

If you have had BCC before, chances are higher that you may have it again. This is why it is always best to:

  • Wear protective clothing as often as possible. Hats, umbrellas, long-sleeved, collared shirts, and trousers are extra helpful.
  • Keep your skin protected every day with sun block, cloudy days included. Apply generously even on skin covered with clothing. Reapply every two to three hours and after every towel-dry (if swimming). Refrain from going out at peak hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
  • Avoid tanning and tanning beds as much as possible.
  • Check your skin regularly even in places you cannot see (check using mirrors or ask help from someone you know). Any changes on the skin such as scabs or sores that do not heal, a change on its appearance, or scabs that bleed must be checked immediately.

Now that the ozone layer has somehow depleted, the UVB rays are much stronger than before. This is why it is more critical than ever to protect your skin regularly and keep yourself aware of any changes on your skin. Tan skin may be in, but if achieving a golden glow is your goal, think again.

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  • Marc Sorenson

    If I lived in an areal like the Philippines, I would be in the sun constantly! Do you not understand the sun exposure is absolutely essential to human health? Recent research from the medical journal Dermato-Endocrinology demonstrates that sun deprivation is leading to the deaths of 330,000 people per year in the U.S.. Compare that to the number of BCC that cause death (virtually none) and you will see what a egregious error it is to recommend sun protection beyond shading up when one has had enough. Here are some scientifically-documented facts about the benefits of being exposed to the sun:

    •As sun exposure in the U.S. has DECREASED by 90% during the last century, melanoma incidence has INCREASED BY 3,000%.

    •A 20-year Swedish study shows that sun avoidance is as bad for the health as cigarette smoking.

    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip fracture risk as those who avoid sun.

    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.

    •Women who totally avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.

    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.

    •Sun exposure leads to a decrease in heart-attack risk, high blood pressure and multiple sclerosis.

    •Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is essential to human survival, and sun exposure is the only natural way to obtain it. Sunbathing can produce 20,000 units of vitamin D in 20 minutes of whole-body exposure.

    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin, endorphin and BDNF.

    •Regular sun exposure also reduces high blood pressure, psoriasis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

    •As sunscreen use has increased dramatically, melanoma has INCREASED exponentially.

    For the scientific references and articles for the above statements, visit http://sunlightinstitute.org/