One year ago today I had skin surgery to get a squamous cell carcinoma removed from under my chin. Although not very visible when looking straight forward, it has left quite a scar and a reminder for myself to be VERY careful when it comes to ultraviolet light (UV).
Everyone comes into contact with UV light from sunlight but, as a scientist, there are other ways I am exposed to possible cancer causing UV. To read an agarose gel, we use a machine that has a UV light base. About a year and a half ago, I was tasked with doing a procedure called gel extraction. This is when you isolate DNA from an agarose gel by cutting the band of DNA out after it's been run (right). To cut the band, you use a scalpel to cut out a little square of gel around the band of DNA you want while the UV light base is on. Typically, there is a cover to protect you from the intense UV rays, but to make cuts, that cover must be lifted. I asked if goggles would be sufficient protection for this task and I was told, yes, so I proceeded to cut my bands with nothing but goggles to protect myself. Turns out, I was misinformed. The personal protective equipment, or PPE, is a mask similar to a welding mask (left) which our lab did not have at the time (we've acquired one since my "accident"). I burned my freaking face off! And, about a months later, I had skin cancer.
The Progress of My Burned Face Healing
The doctor said based on my age, skin and hair color, the type of cancer, and the location, it's more likely that I am genetically predisposed for getting skin cancer and using the wrong PPE and getting the worse UV burn of my life may have sped up the process but wasn't the direct cause. So, by wearing the wrong PPE my cells did mutate and undergo a change like you see in so many comic books, but I didn't get super powers, I just got skin cancer.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!