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Back behind the wheel: Sun and skin cancer

Everything in moderation is a motto that we should all live by. If you really sit back and think about it, too much of anything can be detrimental to you physically, mentally and/or emotionally....

Dr. Jerry Singh

Dr. Jerry Singh

Everything in moderation is a motto that we should all live by. If you really sit back and think about it, too much of anything can be detrimental to you physically, mentally and/or emotionally.

As we learned last month, this is also true about sun exposure. Being in the sun for extended periods of time without proper protection, may lead to many health problems, specifically skin cancer.

For those of you who missed last month’s issue, here is a quick summary: The sun emits light energy called ultra violet rays (UV rays), which damages the skin. Skin cells are constantly regenerating, and the UV rays slow this process down. Too much sun results in a sunburn (bad damage has been done to your skin) and may lead to skin cancer and cataracts. Use suntan lotion to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays.

There are three common types of skin cancers that are all associated with increased sun exposure. They include melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. In fact it is the most common type of cancer in general. Basal keratinocytes (cells found in your skin) are damaged (by UV-B rays), which causes them to mutate and grow abnormally.

BCC appear as a small, fleshy, pink bump or nodule on the head, neck or hands. Luckily, this type of skin cancer is easily treated and has a cure rate of about 95 per cent if diagnosed early. This type of skin cancer does not metastasize (spread) and is benign (not serious).

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Similar to BCC, SCC affects cells in the skin, specifically squamous cells. This type of skin cancer is also benign. Both BCC and SCC share many of the same characteristics, but basically affect different cells in the skin.

These two types of skin cancer are slow growing and prolong exposure to sun may lead to both BCC and SCC.

If you are going to be in the sun, make sure you have enough protection, whether you use suntan lotion or wear clothes that cover up areas that are susceptible (shoulders, neck, ears, nose, face).

How do you know if you have BCC or SCC?

Have your doctor take a look at it, and he/she will want to have a biopsy done.

If you hvae moles, nodules, open sores (which do not heal), a pink growth and or a scaly red patch, which does not disappear, ask your doctor to take a look at it.

Melanomas are another type of skin cancer, which are more serious than BCC and SCC.

Although the incidence of melanomas is lower than BCC and SCC, it accounts for approximately 75 per cent of all deaths attributed to skin cancers.

One in 100 Canadians will get a melanoma and the most common area for men is on their back, and women on their legs.

The melanocyte (cell) which is responsible for producing color in the skin or pigment known as melanin is affected.

Once this cell is damage, it will change colour (black/brown) and resemble a mole. Make sure that if you are constantly in the sun that you check to see if you have any of these spots.

Any mole that changes in size, shape or color, oozes or bleeds, feels itchy swollen or tender to the touch are all symptoms, indicating a possible melanoma.

To help you monitor/check your moles, all you need to do is go through the ABCDs. Asymmetry, all moles should be asymmetric (same on both sides).

The Border should be smooth and not irregular.

The Colour should be consistent throughout and if the Diametre is greater than a pencil’s eraser it may be an indication of malignant melanoma.

Melanomas vary in appearance. Some melanomas may show all of the characteristics, while others may only show changes in one or two. If you have a new mole that has any of these characteristics consult your physician immediately. Being in the sun is fun.

Make sure that you and your family (kids) have the proper protection. If at all possible, try and limit the amount of time that you are in the sun. A little bit of sun is good, but too much can be bad for your health. Most importantly be aware of any new moles, it may be the early stages of skin cancer.

Until next month, take care, drive safely and enjoy the summer!

– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1 888 252-7327, or e-mail

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