Healthy Cane Column

You know what’s great about going to school in Miami? The sun. There’s nothing sexier than nice tan skin, right? Unfortunately, the sun isn’t all fun.

The sun is responsible for 10 percent of aging signs, including wrinkles and age spots. Its ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin, damaging the elastic fibers that keep skin firm, which eventually leads to abnormal cells and wrinkles.

But it’s not just aging that you have to worry about as you’re applying your “dark” Panama Jacks tanning oil. The sun also causes burns, benign tumors, mottled pigmentation, sallowness, loss of elasticity and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S., and there are three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which is the most serious.

UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer, and this includes the UV lights from tanning beds. When looking for melanoma skin cancer on your body, WebMD suggests using the ABCD rule: asymmetry, border (edges are ragged or blurred), color (uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue) and diameter (greater than 6mm).

Basal cells may appear small, smooth, pearly or waxy, and squamous cells can appear as a firm, red nodule or as rough, scaly flat lesions that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Makes all those days spent sunning yourself by the pool sound like a bad idea now, doesn’t it? Well you’re in luck because there are ways to avoid the damage caused by the sun. On top of the list is stopping intentional sunbathing; any suntan means skin damage has occurred. When you can’t afford to stop tanning, always wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater. Wear a hat with a brim and avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the rays are strongest.

Now I know that down here it’s practically impossible to avoid the sun. But when you are 40 and trying to still look 30, it’s going to be a lot harder to keep it up if your face is covered in wrinkles and sun spots and half your cheek is gone because the surgeon had to remove all the cancer.

Ashleyann Gosselin may be contacted at