Stories tagged skin cancer

Jun
30
2010

The machine can actually see through purple rectangles: I put those there for your own safety.
The machine can actually see through purple rectangles: I put those there for your own safety.Courtesy TSA
That headline would likely have been true for most of us anyway, but the new security measures at some airports practically guarantee it.

Y’all remember the new airport scanners that would allow airport security staff to see through our clothes and hair… to the pale, doughy bodies beneath? Organs that we had worked so hard to conceal from the world would be on display for everyone to see. (Not “everyone,” exactly. More like a single security agent.)

We were assured, though, that despite the unveiling of our hidden third, fourth, and fifth nipples, the process was perfectly safe, and would save us from the pat-downs that could subject our vestigial tails and webbed armpits to crude manhandling.

However, it seems that some doctors aren’t so sure that the process is as safe as has been claimed.

The machines work by bathing your body in high frequency radio waves, which penetrate your clothes, but not your body. Depending on your outlook, y’all might be thinking, “Oh, radio waves. Like… for the radio. A little AM/FM never hurt no one.” And, not counting your grammar, you’d be correct. But another equally correct person might think, “Oh, radio waves. Like… in my microwave. If I lived in a microwave oven, I’d probably die.”

These waves shouldn’t do anything to you. Mostly they’re happy just bouncing around, maybe heating things up a little, maybe carrying some talk radio, maybe doing both. The more dangerous electromagnetic radiation (remember, radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation) are further up the scale—gamma rays and x-rays are higher energy and have a shorter wavelength, and they can pass through you just fine, and mess things up on their way through.

However, some scientists think that these radio waves are concentrated on and in the skin, especially where clothes do not protect it. (I’m not certain why this is. Maybe because it can penetrate a little bit, so instead of totally bouncing off the body, or being distributed throughout the tissue, it’s all ending up in the skin? I wouldn’t write that on a test, though.) The upshot is that, according to some doctors at least, the dose of radiation received from these machines could be as much as 20 times higher than the official estimates.

What’s more, some research has shown that this type of radiation may, in fact, be harmful. The reason things like x-rays are potentially dangerous is that they have enough energy that they can sort of knock apart some of the molecules in your body. That’s not a big deal, unless one of the molecules that gets changed is in your DNA. When DNA is altered or damaged, there’s a chance that it could start producing cancer cells. That kind of radiation is said to be “ionizing.” The radiation used by the scanners is supposed to be non-ionizing, but, nonetheless, there are models showing how they could “rip apart DNA.” The effect hasn’t been demonstrated experimentally, but, if it’s true, it might mean that the scanners could contribute to skin cancer risk.

There are a lot of “may”s and “potentially”s in the story, so it’s probably not something to lose a lot of sleep over. (Despite the guarantee I put in the first sentence of this post.) Unless you do lots of traveling through airports that use these devices (which, I should stress, are not the same as the metal detectors we all walk through at the airport), your greater concern should probably be imaging technology that makes you look like a surprised, naked ghost.

Jan
09
2008

Today’s article is brought to you by the letter D
Today’s article is brought to you by the letter DCourtesy Leo Reynolds

Hard to do this time of year. And lots of people shun the sun to avoid skin cancer. But science now says sun avoidance is bad for you. It can lead to vitamin D deficiency.

Your skin produced vitamin D naturally when it is struck by sunlight. Too little vitamin D can lead to some nasty diseases, such as rickets, a softening or weakening of the bones.

Vitamin D has been in the news a lot lately. Canadian researchers have found that non-whites are especially prone to vitamin D deficiency. (Dark skin evolved in sunny areas as a way to keep the body from producing too much vitamin D, which also causes problems. When dark-skinned people move to less sunny areas, their anti-sun defense actually starts to work against them.)

A doctor in Buffalo, NY has linked low levels of vitamin D to high incidence of cancer.

Doctors at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington note that a lack of milk and sunshine is leading to is preventing children from developing strong, healthy bones.

A study at King's College in London suggests that vitamin D may slow aging.

Aug
25
2007

Sun, sun, Mr. golden sun.: Sunlight has both positive and negative effects on the body.  Sure is pretty, though, ain't it?  Photo by S4N7Y from Flickr.com
Sun, sun, Mr. golden sun.: Sunlight has both positive and negative effects on the body. Sure is pretty, though, ain't it? Photo by S4N7Y from Flickr.com

Sunlight is good for you! It helps your body produce vitamin D. And lots of us could use more vitamin D.

Sunlight is bad for you! Overexposure to ultraviolet light can lead to skin cancer.

Sunlight is good for you! A new study shows that vitamin D helps prevent breast cancer.

Sunlight is a myth! It hasn’t stopped raining here in over a week.

Sep
08
2006

Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy  Wikipedia
Ouch, she should have used more sunscreen: Courtesy Wikipedia

Have you ever been sunburned? Did you wear sunscreen? A recent study published in New Scientist might change your mind on how frequently an individual should reapply sunscreen.

Researchers at the University of California Riverside stated, “if you apply sunscreen anything less than once every two hours, you might be better off not using any in the first place.”

Kerry Hanson and colleagues exposed human skin samples grown in a lab to UV radiation. The samples were covered with three common UV filters found in many sunscreens (benzophenone-3, octocrylene and octylmethoxycinnamate). Findings suggested the protective compounds sunk into the skin resulting in its protective capability being greatly reduced.

Researchers also found the skin samples tested contained more reactive oxygen species (ROS) when compared to skin exposed to UV without sunscreen application. ROS are free radicals that damage skin cells and increase the odds of skin cancer. At low levels, ROS are able to assist in cell signaling processes. However, at higher levels ROS damage cellular macromolecules and could lead to apoptosis (programmed cell death).

For now the researchers advise to use sunscreens and reapply them often. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends reapplying sunscreen every two hours. Active individuals are advised to reapply even more frequently due to sweat washing away sunscreen.