Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

Say No to Scarlet Skin!

Posted: May 1, 2009

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The signs of spring are finally here! Mirror Lake has thawed, joggers are out, and the Oval is packed with eager sunbathers whose skin is so pale, the reflection is blinding drivers on High St.   Your skin uses a chemical called melatonin to protect itself from UV rays. The more sun you get, the more melatonin is produced and the more your skin takes on that golden glow you love so much.

Excessive sun exposure can put you at risk for melanoma, one of those most deadly types of cancer and one that is becoming increasingly common.  If you watch Grey's Anatomy, this is the cancer that Izzie Stevens has. Your skin is especially vulnerable to getting burned early in the year when it doesn't have defenses in place.

Melanoma is not just a disease of old people; it can attack at any age. The good news is that it is preventable with diligent sunscreen use and can be treated if caught early enough.  You should use a sunscreen with a 15 SPF or greater - don't worry, you'll still get a tan! - and be sure to apply a generous amount to your entire body, especially to your ears, nose, and even eyelids. Using a chap stick with sunscreen for your lips is also a good idea. These areas with thin skin are especially vulnerable to skin cancer. Lastly, remember to wear a waterproof sunscreen if you're swimming.

Having moles on the skin is normal, but you should watch out for any that change in size, color, or texture.  You should have any suspicious spots on your skin checked by your primary health care provider.  More information can be found here:

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/melanoma

Have fun and enjoy the spring weather!

John Vaughn, MD - Ohio State Student Health Services

Adam Brandeberry, Med 4 - The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health

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