Summer sun signals skin cancer dangers
GRASS VALLEY, Calif. andamp;#8212; Today is the official start of summer. Temperatures will rise, and the sun will beat down with the full force of its rays.But prolonged exposure can turn fun in the sun to danger.Ayse Turkseven knows this well.Turkseven is director of the Cancer Center at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. She began working there 15 years ago. She had a new baby and a job she loved.Then, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. She had no prior symptoms, and her skin had remained the same.andamp;#8220;It didn’t change,andamp;#8221; said Turkseven. andamp;#8220;It just started feeling weird.andamp;#8221;She went to see to Dr. Haines Ely, a Grass Valley dermatologist.There are three types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell. While each type has the potential to kill, said Ely, melanoma is the most deadly.Turkseven had a melanoma.andamp;#8220;Every skin cancer represents DNA that’s been deformed,andamp;#8221; said Ely. andamp;#8220;All cancer has the potential to kill someone. The seriousness depends on the depth.andamp;#8221;Gene mutations are most often caused by exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, he said.As skin cancer deepens, it has the potential to spread to the rest of the body. The longer it remains untreated or undiagnosed, the more it can spread. If the cancer moves into the brain or the liver or the lungs, said Ely, it becomes fatal.Depending on the type of skin cancer, treatments vary from topical solutions to localized radiation to surgery, said Dr. Matthew Muellenhoff, a Grass Valley dermatologist who works with Turkseven and Ely to provide free skin cancer screenings to the community.andamp;#8220;The best treatment for melanoma is early detection,andamp;#8221; said Muellenhoff. andamp;#8220;Generally, if it’s caught early enough, the treatment and survival rates are high.andamp;#8221;Turkseven’s cancer was diagnosed in an early stage and was of a slow-growing and less aggressive variety. She now counts herself among the survivors.About 30 abnormalities are caught at each free screening, not all of them skin cancers, said Turkseven, but the screening provides an opportunity to find out sooner rather than later about any present condition.andamp;#8220;When I got it, it became a personal mission for me to get the word out,andamp;#8221; said Turkseven. andamp;#8220;I became even more passionate.andamp;#8221;So for 15 years, she has worked to get the word out to the community about the dangers of skin cancer, and her efforts seem to be working.When she started working in Grass Valley, the hospital treated about four or five patients at any given time with some form of skin cancer, she said.Now, there are almost 20 patients receiving treatment.Turkseven suspects this is not because incidence rates have gone up, but because education and awareness have increased.According to the National Cancer Institute, the rate of melanoma incidences in Nevada County is the 12th highest among California counties, about 27 people per 100,000, 50 percent greater than the national average.However, the death rate is 17th among state counties, and only just above the national average.andamp;#8220;There are some wonderful success stories,andamp;#8221; said Turkseven. andamp;#8220;I think the screenings have helped.andamp;#8221;The hospital has received a citation from the Commission on Cancer for the number of screenings that take place, and the American Academy of Dermatology awarded the hospital its Gold Triangle Award in 2010 for excellence in public education relating to dermatologic issues.Completely free to the public, the screenings attract crowds of people. Sometimes, as many as 100 or 150 people will turn out, said Turkseven.In addition to checking for abnormalities, doctors provide information on prevention in an effort to stop skin cancer before it starts. They suggest wearing hats and sun-protective clothing, limiting sun exposure during peak hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and wearing sunscreen.andamp;#8220;This is California, and I would never tell anyone not to go in the sun,andamp;#8221; said Muellenhoff. andamp;#8220;It’s not about sun avoidance. It’s about smart sun exposure.andamp;#8221;On June 14, the Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines for how sunscreens are labeled and for the claims that can be made about their effectiveness.Sunscreens will be called andamp;#8220;water resistantandamp;#8221; rather than andamp;#8220;waterproof,andamp;#8221; and the term andamp;#8220;sunblock,andamp;#8221; which has always been a misnomer, said Muellenhoff, will no longer be used on labels.andamp;#8220;They’re starting to really define what quality sunscreen is for preventing cancer,andamp;#8221; he said. andamp;#8220;Overall, this benefits the consumers because they can be smarter shoppers.andamp;#8221;As schools let out, the sun beats down and residents of Nevada County head outdoors after a long, cold winter, protection and prevention only become more important.Turkseven is already seeing people with sunburns and hopes that people will be safe and responsible as the summer months wear on.andamp;#8220;I was as careful as can be, and it still happened,andamp;#8221; said Turkseven. andamp;#8220;If something doesn’t seem normal, get it checked out.andamp;#8221;
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Local coronavirus cases reached 3,292 on Friday, a rise of 35 from the day before.