Surprising Sun Damage
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - They are pictures every teen girl and young woman need to see: dramatic images of sun damage that reveal much more than the human eye detects. "I was one of those 'baby oil and betadine,' turning myself like a rotisserie chicken," says south Charlotte resident and registered nurse Mischell Christmas.
Even working in the skin care industry as a laser and injection specialist didn't keep Christmas from soaking up the rays. But in 2005, skin cancer put an end to her sun worship. Now, she goes to extremes to hide from the sun - even avoids running during the day. She says, "I'll start about 3:30 in the morning, 4 o'clock, to get those 20 miles in before the sun rises."
So, understandably, she was shocked to see images that reveal serious sun damage. "I didn't think I would have any brown pigmentation or sun damage," she says.
The pictures come from a machine called a Vectra Imaging System. It's primarily used to show women how they'll look with breast implants, but Dr. Stephan Finical of Charlotte Plastic Surgery realized the skin imaging feature of the machine can also save lives. He says, "People often times will think, well, you know, a skin cancer really isn't that bad, but melanomas, for example, are deathly lethal."
He looks for the dense areas of pigment that tell him where to apply treatment and says this technology is the wave of the future. He says, "This ends up being the best camera we've ever had."
Finical says most of our sun damage happens before we're 18 years old. The CDC says more than 13% of high school students report using indoor tanning devices.