Sun brings skin cancer concerns - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Sun brings skin cancer concerns

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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB News Channel 5) – Kasey Gill is a nurse practitioner in theoncology unit at Christus St. Frances Cabrini hospital, so she knew just whatto do when she found an unfamiliar mole.

"I thought, that'sdark and that's different," said Gill. "So I made an appointment, went, and wewere all surprised that it was a melanoma."

What happened to Kaseyis what happens to one in about 400 women younger than 40, but the road to skincancer began when she was even younger than that.

"Oh yes, I did havesome tanning bed times," she said. "Also a lot of sun. I've always been atennis player, and an outside person. But I'm also very fair-skinned and I'vehad several sunburns."

Kasey's dermatologistis Dr. Betsy Long of Red River Dermatology. Dr. Long says, ultraviolet (UV) radiationfrom the sun or from indoor tanning is a class 1 carcinogen--classified withcigarettes and plutonium in terms of causing cancer.

So why are we foreverfollowing the sun? 

"I suppose it's for vanity,"said Dr. Long. "Unfortunately having a golden glow has been fashionable for thelast 40 or 50 years."

And while naturalsunlight isn't good for you, indoor tanning delivers up to twelve times as muchUV radiation.

"I realize thattanning beds do like to tell you that they are safe because you don't burn, butthere is no such thing as a safe tan," Dr. Long said.

The tanning trend ismore popular among women than men, and the statistics—unfortunately--agree.

"In the last 40years, the incidents of melanoma have increased 800 percent for women under 40,"said Dr. Long. "But it's only increased 400 percent for men under 40. And a largepart of that is contributed to tanning beds."

So after hearingthese statistics, I, Kathleen Witte, decided to get checked myself.

After I told Dr. Longof my concerns, she got to checking out moles--everywhere.

"You can have nevi inthe scalp, and you often don't know that they are there," said Dr. Long whilechecking through my hair. "So when I find them, I like to point them out."

Sometimes you can'tsee the problem with the naked eye…

"This is called a ‘dermatiscope,'"said Dr. Long, showing me a handheld tool that looked a bit like a magnifyingglass. "And it utilizes magnification and cross-polarized light to look furtherinto the skin to see kind of past or top dead layer of the skin."

Finally, Dr. Longfound a mole on my back that needed a biopsy.

"We're removing thismole today because it does have some redness, when I look up on it reallyclosely," she told me. "And you've experienced some itch with it."

After sanitizing andnumbing the area, Dr. Long got to work.

"I'm using a littleblue blade, which is like a Gillette razor, to scoop out the mole," said Dr.Long.

I asked, "Are youdoing this right now?" She was—and I couldn't feel a thing.  

And with that, mymole was sent to the lab to be tested.

Turns out, it showedmild atypia--which means it wasn't normal, but it's not cancerous. 

However, it does meanan increased risk of melanoma for me, and a different relationship with thesun. 

"It's recommendedthat you have a full-body skin exam by a board certified dermatologist," Dr.Long told me. "And it is also recommended that you avoid indoor tanning andavoid intentional tanning from the sun."

Avoiding intentionaltanning is exactly what Kasey Gill has been doing since her melanoma was diagnosed,so she gave me some tips.

"When I'm outside inthe summertime, I have long sleeves on and I have a hat on," said Gill. "I tryto conserve, and go earlier in the morning or later in the day, but still getour activities in. And of course, sunscreen."

And she's wasting notime passing along those values to her children.

"My kids, they know,sunscreen and long-sleeved shirts," she said. "Always." 

Especially herdaughter, in case one day she asks mom for a trip to the tanning bed beforeprom.

"It's not going tohappen," said Gill. "We will go get the spray. We will try the rub-on, but notanning beds. No. Period. And you know, she can look at the scar on my arm, andthe other biopsy sites, and I can tell her stories about patients, and justreally try to impress upon her that it's just so irrelevant."

Irrelevant–anddangerous. That's the message from Kasey, and from healthcare professionals allover the world. And it's a message that I, for one, will listen to–before it'stoo late.

"It's so easy toprevent," said Gill. "It really is."

For much moreinformation about skin cancer concerns, click here or here

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