Anything to be bronze at the expense of your skin

By Jennifer Davis
April 26, 2007

Lexington Herald/MCT

For roughly 45 hours a week, 51-year-old mother of three and accountant Taffy Belvins works steadily. Despite insurance, 20 percent of her annual pay goes towards her medical bills.

“I was out in the sun a lot as a teenager and of course I did not use sunscreen back then,” said Belvins. In 1982 she had a mole removed on her left ear that was malignant melanoma. She did not know that this was only the beginning of a life-battling journey.

According to the American Cancer Society, Belvins fell between the cracks of one of the 600,000 estimated cases of malignant melanoma per year. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types.

About nine months ago the left area of her neck began to swell. “They just handed me antibiotics and could not tell me what it was,” said Belvins. After repeated use of antibiotics and no help to the swelling Belvins was sent to an ENT doctor for a biopsy. In September 2006, results revealed that Belvins was carrying another case of malignant melanoma.

Belvins came to face with melanoma from a mole and swelling in her neck. Redness or a new swelling beyond visibility and/or change in sensation through itchiness, tenderness, or pain can be warning signs as well.

Belvins was sent to The University of Texas Md. Anderson Cancer Center. On Nov. 30 2006, they removed her parotid gland, tumors and several lymph nodes.

Following the surgery Belvins entered a period of radiation for five treatments starting in February 2007.

The answers are unknown whether the traces of malignant melanoma in Belvins were directly related to UV exposure. Through an email to Loquitur, Dr. Jerome M. Aronberg, a dermatologist and medical expert of believes that UV light is a major contribution to early signs of skin cancer.

“I don’t think there is too much doubt, with all the literature and statistics validating it, that UV light, whether it’s real or artificial, is the major cause of the development of skin cancer,” said Aronberg.

“Immediately when I hear the word skin cancer, I associate it with a tanning booth,” said freshman special and elementary education major Sara Trzuskowski.

The indoor tanning industry boomed in the 1980s. By 1987 tanning salons were the most rapidly growing business according to American Business Information. Never-the-less this was an industry with many growing pains. Many tanning devices lacked exposure schedules. People were emitted to high levels of UVB light then current technology.

Systems with primarily UVA rays were much less likely to cause sunburn. According to tanning consultant Michelle Watts of Hollywood Tans in Wayne, Pa., their systems emit eight-percent of UVB rays and the remaining radiation is UVA.

“By exposing your skin to UV you are building up your skin’s natural defense against burning,” Watts said.

ACS promotes several ways to protect your skin. According to their statements it is not possible to completely avoid sunlight. Small amounts of sunlight help the body maintain plentiful amounts of Vitamin D. However, too much sunlight can be harmful and tanning beds and sun lamps should be avoided at all costs.

Thirty-eight-year old Jennifer Wagner of San Francisco Bay Area, CA has never been a sun worshiper. “Melanoma runs in my family and I believe my genetics is the reason for my melanoma diagnosis, more so than over exposure to the sun,” said Wagner.

It was during her vacation in Santa Barbara with her family when an irregularly shaped mole on the upper side of her left arm began to itch.

Diagnosed on July 18 2003 and 26-year-old Wagner’s surgery took place four days later. After persistent medication and even some radiation therapy Wagner is currently facing her third reoccurrence will Melanoma.

Sun-block just is not enough. Unfortunately for McDavid no matter what type of skin protection he uses now the skin cancers just keep on coming. “I hope this information helps young people think twice when they lay out on the beaches to get that sun tan,” said McDavid.

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Jennifer Davis

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