March marks the beginning of spring, and although it seems more timely in the South, where we're sans snow, universal signs are right around the corner. Daylight savings time will soon tease our circadian rhythms, pollen will infiltrate our sinus passages and that ever-popular rite of passage known as Spring Break will try parents' resolve. But never fear: UAB has news you can use to make it safely through the season.
Tanning beds no safer than the sun
Ignoring the warnings about tanning doesn’t keep you from suffering the consequences.
“You couldn’t tell me anything, so I got in the tanning bed,” explains Brenda Sisson, a patient at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Cosmetic Dermatology clinic, who couldn’t cut her daily tanning habit. And she’s not alone. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says about 1 million people in the United States visit a tanning salon daily.
“I went every day, because I wanted my money’s worth. And I always had a pretty tan,” Sisson says.
But she ended up with skin cancer because of it — squamous cell carcinoma, which is one of two types of non-melanoma skin cancers; the other is basal cell carcinoma. The AAD says more than 2 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed annually, but both are easily treated if caught early. They can also be prevented by avoiding tanning.
“There is no safe tan,” says Marian Northington, M.D., UAB assistant professor of dermatology. “Excessive tanning – either from the sun or tanning beds – will cause skin cancers, and it also is going to cause wrinkles, sun spots and a coarse texture.”
Sisson says an independent streak kept her going back to the tanning bed. “I really felt I would be able to get the cancer removed, go home and do what I wanted to do. Well, it hasn’t turned out that way,” Sisson says.
Lifelong prevention still key to beating skin cancer
One sunburn can ignite a lifelong battle against cancer.
“I would burn on Saturday and Sunday, peel by Wednesday and be back on the water by the next Saturday doing the same thing,” says Thomas Randall, a man in his 70s who spent much of his youth at a lake or a beach trying to tan a pale complexion. But countless hours of sun exposure have taken a toll on his skin, and he now needs regular examinations to search for pre-cancerous moles.
“I had two moles cut off my chest and a major incision on my left leg to remove another mole,” Randall says. He’s also had lesions removed from his face and both ears.
“Studies have shown that just one blistering sunburn will increase the likelihood that a person will develop skin cancer,” says Craig Elmets, M.D., chair of the UAB Department of Dermatology.
The sun’s ultraviolet light can damage unshielded skin and cause pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions, like basal-cell carcinomas and melanomas. But, Elmets says, people can avoid the potentially deadly disease by protecting their skin from the sun.
Sunscreen should be worn daily and re-applied often, Elmets says, even if the sky is cloudy. A hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection also protect against melanoma, a form of skin cancer than can occur anywhere on the body, even in the eye.
Equally important — keep a check on your moles.
Protect against the haze of hay fever
Spring is unleashing its bevy of beautiful blossoms, and seasonal allergy sufferers are searching for relief from the pain of pollen and more in the air.
These allergies are the body’s abnormal response to substances in the environment that generally are harmless, and that response may include sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and even difficulty breathing. Identifying the cause and treating it is the primary line of defense.
But what about little ones — can they suffer as much as adults? Pediatricians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say yes, even children get allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever.
“It generally takes two or three seasons to sensitize to seasonal allergens such as pollens. At 2 or 3 years old, they might be able to develop seasonal allergies. However, kids can develop perennial allergies earlier than that, maybe after the first year, to house dust mites, animal dander, mold, etc.,” says Suthida Kankirawatana, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAB Department of Pediatrics Division of Allergy and Immunology.
Vacationing for Spring Break? Don't forget these tips
Sunscreen? Check. Bathing suit? Check. Oversized, floppy sunhat that embarrasses the kids? Check.
Spring break can be a much needed get-away from life’s fast pace, and careful planning can ensure you leave many of your woes behind. Several University of Alabama at Birmingham professors offer suggestions for a safer spring excursion.
Keep these tips in mind:
Negotiate a deal: It’s not too late to check for cheap deals on hotel rooms and restaurants. No, really. “There are properties that still have vacancies, and they cannot tolerate another bad year,” says Bob Robicheaux, Ph.D., Department of Marketing, Economics and Quantitative Methods. “They’d rather get something for a room than nothing, and now is the time to make a call and say, ‘What if I offer you this?’”
Shift in bedtime routine helps kids adjust to daylight-saving time
Time springs forward March 13 this year. Daylight-saving time signals spring’s arrival: blossoms emerging, extended playtime and spring break festivities. But, it also can mean a tough time for parents and kids at bedtime.
“Moms with little ones are either bracing for these sleep disturbances or not thinking about it at all and will scramble to get children to sleep afterward with much frustration,” says University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant professor of pediatrics – and mother of two – Jennifer Chambers, M.D.
Heart attacks rise following daylight-saving time
Daylight-saving time this year begins March 13, and while we all might look forward to another hour of sunshine a University of Alabama at Birmingham expert says the time change is not necessarily good for your health.
“The Monday and Tuesday after moving the clocks ahead one hour in March is associated with a 10 percent increase in the risk of having a heart attack,” says UAB Associate Professor Martin Young, Ph.D., in the Division of Cardiovascular Disease. “The opposite is true when falling back in October. This risk decreases by about 10 percent.”
The Sunday morning of the time change doesn’t require an abrupt schedule change, but, Young says, heart-attack risk peaks on Monday when most people rise earlier to go to work.
“Exactly why this happens is not known but there are several theories,” Young says. “Sleep deprivation, the body’s circadian clock and immune responses all can come into play when considering reasons that changing the time by an hour can be detrimental to someone’s health.”
Why is daylight-saving time tied to these? Click here to find out