Tanning causes premature wrinkles, damage

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

***image1***It really isn’t fair. We have this wonderful ball of fire millions of miles away in space that provides light and warmth and goes really well with tank tops and swimming. Unfortunately, it also goes well with premature wrinkling and skin damage.
“There is no such thing as a safe tan,” said Maj. Michael Bryan, chief of Dermatology at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. “Tan skin means the skin has been damaged. Most people agree that tan skin looks better than pale skin, so what I tell them is to get color from a bottle, not the sun.”
Bryan said that a tan acts as a shield, laying down more color to protect the skin from the sun’s rays. However, over time and without protection, that shield will give way to the sun’s damaging rays.
As summer time approaches, there a few things to consider before venturing outside in the noon-day heat. Think wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts and sunblock.
“I am a big proponent of hats, considering that 90 percent of our skin cancers form on the head and neck,” said Major Bryan.
Other areas of the body are particularly susceptible, also. The shoulders and back are body parts that have a high chance of burning due to the fact that they almost always are in the sun. Wearing a shirt in conjunction with a wide hat and sunscreen can greatly reduce chances of sunburn. One major sunburn can increase the risks of skin cancer by as much as 50 percent.
“Sunscreen is a great thing,” said Major Bryan. “Unfortunately, we don’t use enough or put it on as often as we should.”
“And there is no sunscreen in the world that is water or sweat proof,” said Lt. Col. Havard Albright, LRMC dermatologist. “It all washes off. You should apply it every two hours, and if you have been swimming, apply it every hour.”
Colonel Albright also recommends that people perform regular self exams.
“Examine your body once a month,” he said. “You should be looking for new moles or moles that have changed either shape or color.”
Although most skin cancer does not develop on moles, there is a chance of it happening, so here are the ABCDs of examining a mole:
Asymmetry, borders, color and diameter are things to look for. The mole should be asymmetrical, meaning if it was cut in half, both sides would look alike. The borders of a mole should be smooth, not choppy.
A change in color, either lighter or darker is a sign to get it checked.
Finally, diameter. If the mole is bigger than a pencil’s eraser, get it looked at.
To examine normal skin, look for a sore that won’t heal or a spot of skin that bleeds on its own. These are two warning signs that should be checked immediately.
“I wish people who don’t take this stuff seriously could spend one day when either Dr. Albright or I are doing surgery on someone’s face to remove a skin cancer,” said Major Bryan. Sure can make a person think twice before lying unprotected in the sun.
For more information or to schedule an exam, call the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Dermatology Clinic at 486-8171 or 06371-86-8171.