Megan Settles never dreamed that anything good could come from her case of severe childhood acne.
However, regular visits to the dermatologist’s office planted seeds of interest in a future career for Megan.
Now a physician assistant in dermatology at Lexington Clinic, Megan uses her own experience to relate better to patients who are going through similar skin conditions.
“My acne started very young, in elementary school,” Megan said. “Those years are hard on your self-esteem anyway, then add severe acne onto it and it’s more difficult. Luckily, my mom was on top of it and took me to the dermatologist.”
To this day, Megan is grateful for the care she received, and it inspired her to try dermatology during her clinical rotations when studying to be a physician assistant at University of Kentucky.
The rotation turned into a career for Megan, who is originally from Eastern Kentucky.
After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgetown College in 2007, Megan received her Master of Science in physician assistant studies from UK in 2010. When she was finished with her studies, Megan returned to Pikeville where she practiced for five years until an opportunity arose for her and her husband, a radiologist, to return to Lexington.
“I love Eastern Kentucky, but Lexington is my favorite city,” Megan said.
Now she is doing the job that she enjoys in a city that she loves.
“I really enjoy treating teenagers who have acne,” Megan said. “It’s amazing how when they first see you, they often keep their heads dropped. But as treatment progresses, they begin to hold their heads up. It’s amazing to see that transformation.”
While a good bit of her time is spent treating acne (the most common skin condition in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology), Megan sees a variety of skin conditions and ailments — some preventable.
“The two most common types of skin cancers caused by the sun that we see and treat in dermatology on a daily basis are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma,” Megan said. “These are very curable if caught early and treated properly.
“The deadliest form of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. On average, one American dies from melanoma every hour.”
Megan has had experience with skin cancer in her family, as well.
“My grandfather had a melanoma on his back that he had never even seen,” she said. “Luckily, my grandmother saw it one day and got him into a dermatologist in the nick of time and ultimately saved his life.
“Sun protection, self-examinations — knowing your own skin — and a visit to your local dermatologist regarding any concerning spots are key,” she said.
Fun in the sun
Sun exposure can age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
However, there are safe ways to have fun in the sun year-round, said Megan Settles, a physician assistant in dermatology.
“You don’t have to be a hermit; you just have to be smart,” Megan said.
• Wear sunscreen daily. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply it first thing in the morning or at least 15 minutes before going outside. (Megan’s tip: Make life simpler by choosing a daily moisturizer with sunscreen.)
• Remember, it doesn’t last all day. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors — especially when swimming or sweating. (Megan’s tip: Steer clear of the spray-on sunscreens and stick to the lotion so it will stick to you. “I’ve watched people try to apply the spray-on kind and it just blows away in the wind,” she said.)
• Use clothing as a sunblock. Consider wearing sun protective clothing when spending time outdoors. Some apparel uses an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating system to indicate how much it will shield the wearer from ultraviolet rays. (Megan’s tip: “Also, add a big hat to your wardrobe. They’re not only cute, they’re very protective.”)
• Fake it. The best way to avoid the ill effects of the sun is to stay out of it whenever possible. (Megan’s tip: “If you have to have that summer glow, then self tanners or spray tans are the way to go,” she said. “They’ve come a long way and are safe to use.”)