A little unsolicited health advice for Melanoma Monday

It’s not just accepted, but it’s almost expected that seeing someone smoke a cigarette is an invitation for lectures and health lessons. I know. I smoked for 17 years (minus the 21 months that I was pregnant or breastfeeding). Smokers all know that smoking is bad for them. You don’t have to say it.

Tanners, however, don’t usually know the risks. They are typically very misinformed about what is safe. And yet very few people feel it’s appropriate to spout off lectures and health lessons when someone tells you that he or she is going tanning. I’m not really all about the lectures, but I won’t hesitate to share health information, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do today, Melanoma Monday.

My mom was first diagnosed with melanoma when she was 17 years old. It was not tanning related. She had a malignant mole on her back. She went into remission, and was considered almost “cured”. When she was 33, she was diagnosed once again. She only lived another 4 months.

For obvious reasons, melanoma is something I think about often. I’m obsessive about sun screen, for both my daughter and myself. I stay out of the sun as much as possible. And I am quite happy with my whiteness in the summer time. I hear a lot of false information spouted off about tanning. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. It’s safer to go to a tanning salon than to tan naturally because the UV radiation is regulated.
  2. “Base tans” will protect your skin from burning.
  3. I don’t need to wear sun screen because I have dark skin and can’t get skin cancer. ::cough:: Kes ::cough::
  4. It’s cloudy outside, so I don’t need to wear sunscreen.
  5. It’s cold out today. I can’t get a sunburn.
  6. Tanning makes me look younger.

The list goes on and on.

Here’s a plain and simple fact from The Skin Cancer Foundation: There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Got that? There is no healthy “base tan” and there is no safe indoor tanning. In fact, those who tan indoors before they’re 30 have a 75% higher chance of getting melanoma than someone who hasn’t tanned indoors. Tanning is your body’s way of repairing damaged skin. If your skin was completely healthy, you wouldn’t have a tan.

Here’s another fact: People with darker skin tones can get skin cancer. While the chances of a skin cancer diagnosis are slimmer, the odds of death are greater. Why? You ask. Because for those with darker skin, the cancer is usually discovered in the much later stages.

Cloudy skies and cool temperatures are not protections from the sun. UV radiation has nothing to do with the heat, so a nice cool breeze won’t keep you from burning. Overcast days can often be MORE damaging than sunny days because people feel a false sense of security.

Oh, and as for tanning making you look younger . . . Tanning AGES the skin. It causes wrinkles, age spots, and leathery skin.

All I ask is that the next time you consider tanning, think about the health costs. Consider a spray tan or just learn to love your paleness.

I wrote this for Commentarista.com a few weeks ago. The information is mostly the same (there are some bits here that are not there and vise versa), just written in a snarkier tone ::Smile::

I know I focused on tanning here, but I’d also like to point out the importance of checking moles. You need to look over your body head to toe at least once a month for any new moles or existing ones that have changed size or shape. Women, you should be doing a self breast exam every month, and men, you should be doing a self testicular exam every month . . . why not check your skin at the same time?

Take a moment today, on Melanoma Monday, to educate yourself about your skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website has loads of information.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you! My mom hasn’t been diagnosed with a melanoma…yet. But she has had various pre-cancerous lesions removed. Enough so that if she has another one removed from her nose, she will have to have it reconstructed. She wasn’t a tanning bed junky either, but did live through the tanning oil (not sunscreen) phase and believed that tans made you “look healthier.” Myself, I take after my dad. Neither of us tan, we burn. As a result, I managed to get sun poisoning on a cloudy day; my legs swelled up like balloons. Since then I’ve also been paranoid about sun exposure. Once you have sun poisoning, you’re more and more likely to have problems. I never go without sunscreen–and expose as little skin as possible, even wearing light gauze long sleeve shirts and skirts in the summer instead of tank tops and shorts. The more skin covered, the better. It’s a lesson we all should learn. Sunlight is warm and comforting…and dangerous.

    Reply

    • My best wishes to your mom. Make sure that they keep testing and testing. Once melanoma has been in your system for awhile, it’s really difficult to get rid of because it spreads in branches. However, if it’s caught early enough, it has one of the highest remission rates! . . . . . I’ve had people roll their eyes at me for years about sunscreen and tanning dangers. Some people will just never get it. In the summer time I kind of avoid going out unless it’s a shaded park or closer to dusk.

      On a side note, I apologize for how long it has taken me to check out your blog. Things get so crazy around here that the things I want to do often get pushed aside. I did finally read through a few today and woah, do we think alike! Your post about “because I said so” . . . is so similar to my background and my spiritual search. I really look forward to reading more of your work!

      Reply

  2. Thank you much for your wishes for my mom. Fortunately, she’s very good about keeping up with the doctor and has an excellent PCP. Wish I’d learned from her sooner! You’re right, though. ALL the various forms of cancer are more easily treated if caught earlier. That yearly doctor appt and keeping an eye on your own body and all the changes is so monumentally important! People don’t get that seemingly simply things like the sun can be dangerous for us. Everything can be, in different amounts!

    Thanks for checking out the blog…I appreciate it! 😀 I have a small quest to find people that I think like…if nothing else, to prove I’m not alone or not completely insane or…well, just to find them! LOVE your blog!

    Reply

    • You’re not alone — I can’t testify about the insanity, because well, I have never claimed sanity a day in my life! (It’s so much more fun that way!)

      Reply

  3. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this, Dayle. I’m ashamed to admit that I was also fooled into thinking that tanning salons would be better for the skin somehow. How silly and uneducated of me. =S

    Thanks for getting the word out because it’s so true that people are less informed about the risk of getting too much sun v. the risk of smoking. I got a good smack in the face when I came to the Central Andes. The sun is more powerful here because we’re higher up (over 10,500 feet above sea level). I have never burned a day in my life, so I wasn’t using sunscreen for the first three months and I got a nasty rash on my forehead that didn’t go away until I went back to Vancouver three months later. It was my body warning me to be careful and I’m glad it did. Thank *you* too for the important warning!

    Reply

    • Thank you for reading, Sam! I joked in the other other post about how I was never invited to many pool parties :p Nobody wants to hear and I might be a pain in the ass with it, but I won’t shut up about it.

      It’s kind of funny. I hadn’t written about melanoma in about 8 years. I have now written 4 posts about melanoma in the past month. It wasn’t intentional. First came the commentarista post because of something my cousin said. then this one because of Melanoma Monday, and then two more posts because of the video that my sister in law shared with me.

      Reply

  4. […] Most Helpful Post — I wrote a lot about skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen this year. I think there was a lot of helpful information in this post – “A little unsolicited advice for Melanoma Monday” […]

    Reply

  5. […] months that affect us the most. I’m sure most of you don’t know that the first Monday in May is Melanoma Monday. I do – because it hits […]

    Reply

  6. […] Last year, I wrote mostly about the dangers of tanning. That information is certainly still relevant and I cannot stress enough how important it is to protect your skin and stay away from tanning booths, but I am not going to rehash everything I wrote last year. (Though, there will be some overlap, of course!) If you want to check out that information, here it is! […]

    Reply

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