Response To Anxiety/Depression Via Sun and Surf Carries Risk

Dr. Claudewell S. Thomas Psychiatrist Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Claudewell S. Thomas, MD, MPH, DLFAPA, is an established psychiatrist who is currently retired ,, He received his medical degree in 1956 at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine and specializes in social psychiatry, public health psychiatry, and forensic psychiatry. Dr. Thomas was board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry... more

A hedonistic excursion of some sort is often suggested for those of us who are down in the dumps, for good reason or not. With feelings characterized as listless or lack of energy (depressive or dyskinesia) hiking, camping, road trips, etc. are undertaken with a beach or spa excursion included, if it can be afforded. If our disease is not locatable, we often indulge with less caution than might otherwise be the case.

The skin is now regarded as the body's largest organ and its first line of defense. It is also likely to be the first system attacked by potentially harmful agents. I was recently watching an ad which showed the effect of sun damage. First, with simple photos which showed reddening, deep tanning, and dark spots. This was followed by ultra violet shots of the skin which showed frightful damage. Whatever sunscreen oil or ointment they were selling is forgotten, but the point is that sunscreen should be worn even with limited exposure.

The ratings are not for all time so that the limits of the protection in terms of time should be understood. Sunglass protection for the eyes should also be understood as well as understanding that sunglasses lose their effectiveness overtime. It has been suggested that the ability to see the red lines on a twenty dollar bill through sunglasses indicates that they are still protective. I don't know if this is true.

I want to drop back to the road trip and the need to deal with sun exposure through convertible use or sunroof manipulation. Some sunroofs uncovered, but unopened, offer some protection against UV light and actinic rays of the sun. Many do not. One automaker now has included GPS navigation in the sunroof which meant that it must be unshielded for the system to operate. It would likely open less widely than the dimensions of the opening would allow. The implications of all of this for structural integrity in case of overturning of the vehicle depend on the make, model, etc. Although the structural integrity of convertibles in case of overturn seems universally low.

Let's get medical again and look at some of the ways that light heat and other injury can affect the bodily integument known as the skin. It burns, blisters, rashes and can turn cancerous, and that is what I'd like to focus on, skin cancer.

The various types of skin cells that can become cancerous are indicated above. The types of skin cancer that relate most closely to what we have discussed in a previous post are melanoma and M cell. These cancerous cells take over the body's replicative and immune system to aid their proliferation. They are not like the retroviruses but like Ebola and measles, they use the ancient architecture of our immune system to proliferate.

There has been some success against melanoma in certain patients who show immune response early and for whom eradication of the next site for melanomas spread leaves the cancer cell vulnerable to the anticancer treatment (immune and chemotherapeutic) of the cells at the original site. Usually arrival at the extirpated site and interaction with the body's systems at that site results in cells that are no longer impacted by the original anticancer agents.

Skin color does not protect against the harmful effects of actinic and ultraviolet light exposure but may make it harder to differentiate malignancy from normalcy. Particularly as you age, annual pre and post season exams by LMD's with referral to a dermatologist is recommended.