Students Fry in the Sun, Bake Skin Cells

Thanks to Michigan weather and summer just around the corner, it’s no surprise Seaholm’s students are eager to spend a greater amount of time in the sun. However, soaking up rays can become a greater problem than looking pasty when it comes to a healthy lifestyle.

Everyone is familiar with the sun. The fiery ball of gas 91.4 million miles away does more than warm up your backyard. “UV rays come from the sun,” Dr. Kay Watnick said, a dermatologist from West Bloomfield. “They cause damage to DNA in cells, which increase one’s risk for skin cancer.”

The most dangerous form of skin cancer, Melanoma, strikes more than 50,000 individuals a year with a quarter of the cases being fatal. Just five sunburns in a lifetime doubles one’s chances of attaining melanoma.

Many people are familiar with the harm the sun’s rays can cause, and have chosen to switch to indoor tanning as an alternative. Unfortunately, tanning beds release even stronger radiation, meaning deadlier, more concentrated effects.

According to the American Skin Cancer Association, nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the United States every year. 2.3 million of these individuals are adolescents.

In 2008, junior Mikaela Strech learned the risks of indoor tanning the hard way. Naturally fair skinned, Strech owned a tanning bed she used daily for several months. When a birthmark began to grow into an irregular shape, she visited a dermatologist. “They told me they wanted it removed right away,” Strech said.

Strech had a form of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Although Strech’s case was nondeadly and surgically removed, her outlook on tanning has significantly changed.

“I stopped physically going into a tanning bed,” Strech said. “When something that scary happens you realize it’s not worth it.”

Although many people associate UV exposure to tanning, few realize the correlation between sports and the sun can be equally as dangerous.

Senior Nick Resnick was a victim of such a situation. Resnick noticed in early summer of 2011 a discoloration in the skin on his nose. Resnick, an avid soccer player, believes spending excessive time in the sun was his issue.

“I was always on the turf without a lot of shade,” Resnick said. “I suspect that was the base for my problem.”

After a biopsy, Resnick’s dermatologist determined that he had basal cell skin cancer. A malignant tumor that develops from the bottom layer of cells in the skin, basal cell skin cancer isn’t deadly but must be removed in order to prevent spreading.

During Seaholm’s February break, Resnick visited a skin cancer treatment center which successfully removed the cancerous cells. A rigid skin care regimenis now used in order to protect the sensitive skin around the damaged area.

“For the rest of my life I’m going to have to be extremely careful,” Resnick said. “You can never really enjoy the outdoors because you’re always worried about it.”

Actress and former model Brooke Shields has spoken openly about her scare with skin cancer and has become an active advocate for skin protection.

“I used to think it was the best thing in the world to be baking in the sun,” Shields told People magazine May 22nd, 2009. “And then something like that crops up and you’re made aware of how dangerous it really can be.”

Proper skin safety techniques can be taken in order to enjoy the summer heat while keeping safe. SPF 15 or higher should be used when exposing yourself to the sun and reapplied hourly.

“It’s not worth it to damage your skin at such a young age and leave yourself with effects which will follow you for the rest of your life,” Watnick said.

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