It Could Happen to Anyone…

Applying SunscreenJust a few weeks ago I was enjoying my summer like most teens by hitting the beach and the lake to soak up some sun. I’ve always had the attitude “that will never happen to me” when it comes to things such as cancer, but as I quickly learned – no one is safe from this horrible disease. I’ve worked in the Center for Young Women’s Health for over two years now and have gained a great deal of knowledge regarding sun safety, so you’d I think I would follow my own advice…

However, in the spring of my senior year of high school I fell in love with indoor tanning. Even though I knew that down the road it could have serious affects on my body, I figured it would never happen to me. I wanted to have the same sun kissed glow all year round. Since I have blonde hair and fair skin I figured indoor tanning would be the only way to get a golden tan. Even though my trips to the tanning salon were usually just once and a while, they were enough to do damage to my skin. I started realizing I was no longer burning at the beach, so I stopped using sunscreen (or if I did, the SPF protection was very low).

After two years of indoor tanning and about a year of using little to no sunscreen outdoors, the effects caught up with my skin. A few months into my freshman year of college I started to notice a white dot on my knee cap that looked like a clogged hair follicle. I figured it was nothing but a nuisance and would go away with a little exfoliating. Then one day at the end of my freshman year I nicked the dot while shaving my legs, which caused it to bleed. I got a little nervous, but I was hopeful that it would heal and go away. However, instead of it going away the dot began to grow bigger than before. My mom (a nurse) noticed the bump and urged me to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t basal cell carcinoma (the most treatable form of skin cancer). I panicked and immediately made an appointment with my dermatologist.

My dermatologist removed the bump and sent it in to be biopsied (tested). The biopsy ended up being negative and I was very relieved to hear that I don’t have skin cancer. After this scare I understand that skin cancer can affect ANYONE at any age. I’ve since discovered a newfound respect for my skin and realize the importance of using sunscreen. Having a sun kissed glow just isn’t worth the risks. I’ve followed the advice of my dermatologist and have found self tanners and bronzers to be a much safer option.

Just remember; the next time you think “that’ll never happen to me”, it very likely could happen to you. No one is safe from cancer, and facing such a serious diagnosis is not worth the risks that come along with tanning. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, so take the steps to protect yourself.

Here are five ways to protect your skin:

  • Avoid tanning beds/booths. Tanning beds/booths use UV light that can damage your skin just as much as the sun’s rays.
  • Check your skin regularly. Know your birthmarks, moles, and, freckles, on your skin. Make an appointment with your health care provider or dermatologist if you notice any changes.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or more – even on cloudy days. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply to any part of your skin that might be exposed to the sun, including your scalp.
  • Limit sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 3pm – when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.
  • Apply sunscreen BEFORE you go out in the sun, even on cloudy days. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours.