Tan at Your Own Risk
Skin cancer still a possible side effect to lying in a tanning bed
You may want to get a base tan before heading to the beach this summer, but doctors still say to stay away from the tanning bed.
"If you want to look 50 when you're 40, use a tanning bed," says Dr. Julia Nunley, professor and resident program director of the department of dermatology at VCU Medical Center. But when it comes to tanning beds, the fact that time spent in them can age skin so rapidly is
not Nunley's main concern. She's more worried about skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every five Americans gets skin cancer, about 1 million people each year.
When the cells that make melanin, melanocytes, are exposed to sunlight or the ultraviolet lights used in tanning beds, they make more melanin and cause the skin to tan — but with too much exposure, melanocytes can become cancerous, a condition called melanoma. "Repeated use can cause both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer," says Nunley. She advises those who have used tanning beds to pay attention to their skin and look for new or changing moles and areas that appear to heal but then bleed or stay scaly.
Though recent studies have shown that vitamin D can be obtained from sun exposure (not from tanning beds), the risk of skin cancer outweighs the benefits of vitamin D. "If you want vitamin D, take a supplement," she says.
Psoriasis sufferers also have turned to tanning beds, but the National Psoriasis Foundation warns that most commercial salons' beds emit UVA rays and not UVB, which is beneficial for these patients. Short, multiple exposures to sunlight or phototherapy conducted in a clinic are considered better choices, according to the foundation. —Ashley Norwood Nichols
Three Times the Surprise
Jennifer and John Cecil of Goochland beat the odds when they became the parents of identical triplets in May.
The couple, already parents of two girls ages 2 and 4, weren't even planning to have more children and hadn't undergone fertility treatments. Plus, Jennifer's only 26, below the average age of women who have multiples. "My body just went psycho," she jokes.
Fortunately, Jennifer had a nearly trouble-free pregnancy — a tad more nausea than her previous two, but no bed rest, and she worked until her 28th week of pregnancy. In fact, the day before the triplets were born, she was out shopping.
Still, one aspect of the pregnancy was typical: a copious number of doctor appointments. Between her OB/GYN and maternal and fetal medicine specialist, Jennifer was often in a doctor's office twice a week toward the end of her pregnancy.
The doctors had discovered that one of the babies had stopped gaining weight and that Jennifer's blood pressure was elevated. As a result, physicians at Henrico Doctors' Hospital delivered the triplets at 31 weeks the morning of May 6 via Caesarean section. "We hoped for Cinco de Mayo [May 5] so we'd be Cinco Cecils," Jennifer says. The newborn girls — Hailey, Lindsey and Natalie — weighed a respective 3 pounds, 3 ounces; 2 pounds, 7 ounces; and 2 pounds, 11 ounces.
Since the triplets were born prematurely, they were sent
to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. The three Cecil girls are all doing remarkably well, breathing on their own and learning to bottle feed. As of our print deadline, Hailey and Natalie had both come home from the hospital, with Lindsey expected to follow her sisters home the next week. —Sarah K. McDonald
Increasing Awareness of Rett Syndrome
Hamilton Holloway and his wife, Debra, thought it strange that their 9-month-old daughter, Mary Grace, wasn't attempting to sit up or speak like her older sister did at that age.
"We knew something wasn't right," Holloway says. "It took a year of trials and seeing a number of doctors and neurologists to figure out what was going on."
Mary Grace was suffering from Rett Syndrome, a genetic neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in girls. The disorder becomes apparent after six to 18 months, but it is often misdiagnosed as autism or cerebral palsy. Now 9, Mary Grace is unable to walk, talk or purposefully use her hands.
Richmond has close to 20 known cases of the disorder; Virginia has more than 125 recorded cases. Kathryn Kissam, chair of the International Rett Syndrome Foundation's board, explains that the number is low because of a lack of awareness, "as well as misdiagnosis and HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] requirements that prevent doctors from providing us directly with patient information."
Holloway is assisting the awareness effort with a Richmond-based fundraiser for the foundation, which plans a clinical study this year to help stimulate nerve growth in patients. —Joan Tupponce
Keeping Your Blood Sugar Straight
During the summer, many people put aside their regular eating and drinking habits — behavior that can wreak havoc on blood-sugar levels.
The best way to maintain proper blood-sugar levels is to follow a healthy, well-balanced diet coupled with adequate hydration. "In the summer, people tend to drink more diet products, which don't do anything to maintain blood sugar," says Jan Starkey, nutrition clinic director at VCU Medical Center.
Symptoms of low blood sugar include depleted energy, shakiness, fuzzy thinking and the inability to concentrate.
Good snacks include high-fiber cereals and breads, yogurt,
milk and whole-grain crackers with hummus or peanut butter. If you need a quick pick-me-up, try half a can of soda, milk products, fruit or fruit juice. After a round of strenuous exercise, try a glass of chocolate milk, a combination of protein and carbohydrates. —JT