March 15, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

One peek inside the Dermascan machine and high school students in Muhlenberg County could see the damage the sun has already done to their skin.

Laura Holt and Darrell Simpson with the Muhlenberg County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service brought the machine along with their skin cancer awareness program to students at both high schools in the county.

“When I was a teenager, I would try to get things done so I could lay out in the sun to get that summer tan, and just in the past few years I’ve really started paying for that,” Holt, Extension agent for family and consumer science, told the students.

For the past couple years, Simpson, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources, has been working to raise skin cancer awareness among the county’s farming community. Bringing the message to the high school students is an expansion of that program.

"The younger you can protect yourself, the better off you’re going to be,” Simpson said. “Most of the damage occurs before age 18 and so if we can get them to change their level of awareness that would be great. Also with prom and spring break coming up, we wanted to get the message to them now. Hopefully, we can get to some of them.”

Holt said her concern, with a teenager at home, was that teens think they feel better when their skin is tanned and that the sun is a good thing. She wants to educate them on the dangers.

 “I hear all these young girls talking about going to tanning beds, and that damage is just as much as if they’d gone out and spent two hours in the sun,” she said. “We want to educate them, so that when they reach our age their skin is not as damaged as our generation’s is damaged.”

The agents provided the students information on prevention as well as basic information on skin cancer. Holt told students if they had a concern, to contact their local physician.

One senior at Muhlenberg South, said she was surprised by what the machine revealed because she doesn’t lay out in the sun or go to tanning beds.

“My skin didn’t look that good,” she said. “I will start wearing sun block more.”

Muhlenberg South teacher Connie Wyatt said she was interested in having the skin cancer awareness program in her classroom because she teaches consumer awareness, and even though the class is a nutritional science class, it was an opportunity to provide the students with some very important information.

“The younger we practice prevention, the better our chances are of fighting off this type problem,” she said.


Darrell Simpson and Laura Holt, (270) 338-3124