Genetics and the Sun - Melissa Clements, MD - Oklahoma City
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Genetics and the Sun

Genetics and the Sun

In my mind’s eye May should be a charitable month, with lengthening hours of daylight, renewed energies, spring cleanups undertaken, and new plans unfolding.  Somehow, the violent winds that have beaten the plains states provide more apt metaphor than does the ideal of the cool balm of a babbling brook.  Such is life.

The helter-skelter of the Clements’ household this month has been filled with much good.  Family weddings and two college graduations have witnessed the addition of thousands of miles on automobile odometers.  Predictably, weather conditions have changed on the proverbial dime and have caught the best of us unprepared.

The dermatologist amongst us carefully placed three hats in the car before backing out of the driveway for ten days of cross-country travel.  They were in easy reach and always available.

I found time to lecture my red-headed, blue eyed brother on the appalling extent of his background sun damage, numerous pre-cancers, and impending field breakdown – we plotted and have carried out treatment with 5-FU and BLU-U – his treated skin is molting as I write.

I saw fit to plead the case for sunscreen, long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses to golfers and hikers alike.  I sat in the shade when savoring a book.  But, I failed resoundingly to place a hat atop my head.  Not when walking, filling the car, shopping, partaking in endless outdoor parties, or queuing in hours long lines prior to baccalaureates or graduations. Not once.

Mea culpa!

Back to the redheaded brother with appalling sun-damage.  He rearranged his demanding schedule so that he could visit after treating his face with a topical chemotherapeutic agent for 7 days.  He endured the rigors of BLU-U treatment.  Photos of him with a Buff obscuring his face and hat covering his crown have been enjoyed (and ridiculed) by family near and far.

His response to treatment was as dramatic as any I have seen.  I must confess that no non-ablative laser treatment, not even PicoSure, could have addressed the damage that was lurking on that Celtic-derived face.  Decades cutaneous damage incurred from mowing lawns, fishing, snow skiing, and watching offspring play baseball and soccer are sloughing at his moment.

How long will benefits of treatment last?  Genetics are against him.  His love of the great American outdoors works against him. He seems to have a deeper appreciation of very important physical protective measures and timing are when it comes to sun exposure.  Protective clothing, sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, and off peak hours of exposure are critical.  Thinking ahead and anticipating compromising circumstances can be helpful.  Think like a Boy Scout….be prepared!

His genetics are my genetics.  My tube of 5-FU is close at hand.  So is my hat. How much more encouragement should an educated skin professional need?!