UV camera shows students' skin damage

Nathan Liewicki
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Samara Stearns, a Grade 12 student at Peacock Collegiate, has her picture taken courtesy a UV photo camera Monday. Stearns, was one of approximately 60 students whose facial skin condition was photographed showing permanent skin damage as part of the Canadian Cancer Society's Tan Free Grad campaign. 

Tan Free Grad campaign comes to Peacock

As he waited for a picture of his face to be printed, Owen Tilley quipped, “I’m expecting to look like a Christmas tree.”

A Grade 11 Peacock Collegiate student, Tilley was not surprised his picture – taken by a ultra-violet (UV) camera – revealed significant skin damage on areas of his face.

“I have a lot of freckles,” he remarked. “I have to show people that.”

Tilley was one of approximately 60 Peacock students who visited a Canadian Cancer Society booth in the school’s lounge Monday, curious to see the extent of damage to their facial skin.

Peacock is the first school in Moose Jaw – the sixth in Saskatchewan – to offer students an opportunity to see the damage their face has been subjected to.

Pictures showcasing more redness, as well as green, blue and purples patches signaled just how permanently damaged the facial skin of some students is, including Tilley.

“Cancer is bad and skin cancer is even worse,” he told the Times-Herald. “I wanted to get my picture taken to see how bad my skin was.”

The UV camera takes photos that show the impact UV rays have had 3 mm below the skin’s surface.

Although there were a number of students and teachers whose skin was significantly more damaged than it appears on the outside, Arianne Tonner, leader of the Tan Free Grad project, said overall the pictures were not as bad as she expected.

“The damage shown on the photos is there for the rest of your life, but by doing this we want to bring awareness to people.”

Tanning beds are notoriously under scrutiny, but Tonner noted that tanning outdoors without properly applying sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) could also produce significant skin damage.

Tonner is hopeful that over the course of the week more Grade 12 girls decide to have pictures of their face taken.

One of the reasons for that is girls are more prone to using tanning beds than boys are, especially since the name of the program is Tan Free Grad.

Samara Stearns was one of the Grade 12 girls who had her picture taken Monday. Stearns, who admitted to twice using a tanning bed, said she needs to take better care of her skin – after seeing her photo.

“I probably need to use more sunscreen on my nose. I’ve used it more recently, but I still need to use it more.”

The fact that skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Saskatchewan, including among young people, explains just how important taking care of your skin in the sun truly is. 

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Canadian Cancer Society, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw

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