Photo Credit: NYU Skin Cancer Tee by Marc Jacobs’ “Protect the Skin You’re In” Campaign
Every month should be melanoma and skin cancer awareness month: whether it is overcast or sunny, your skin is exposed. Like most people, I tend to have a somewhat cavalier attitude about sun exposure. Yet every time I burn I kick myself for sheer stupidity. The short-lived glow is not worth the stress or the long-term damage I am inflicting on my body.
Skin damage comes in all colors. Did you know that Bob Marley died of an undetected melanoma on his big toe that eventually spread to his primary organs? It doesn’t just happen to people with fair skin. I have a porcelain complexion, which made me an anomaly growing up in sunny Miami where all my friends were tanned, but I have come to love my unique color over the years. It makes me classically beautiful.
Annual mole check performed by your dermatologist is a must. I just had mine this morning, and for the second time in my life, I had a strange looking mole removed for a biopsy. The reality of sun damage really hits home when your doctor suggests it might be a good idea to have a closer look at a mole that has changed with time. Knowing is ALWAYS better than AVOIDING when it comes to your health. I grew up with regular visits to the dermatologist, and this habit has remained a matter of practice in my adult life.
Skin cancer can appear anywhere. It can occur under your nails (ladies, check before you pedicure) or on your scalp, which is why a simple, pain-free body scan performed with a small magnifying glass is so important. Even the biopsy is nothing more than a small prick and minimal soreness, so don’t let that discourage you.
Sun damage is cumulative. Even incidental sun exposure from walking to work or sitting next to your office window can damage your skin over the long term. You are soaking up UV rays whether or not you are actively tanning on a beach or in a tanning bed from now through Labor Day. Make sure to apply a broad spectrum, waterproof SPF (sun protection factor of at least 15) that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the house. Reapplication is a key component of sun protection, expecially if you’re sweating, swimming or outdoor for long periods of time.
Whether or not we choose to accept these facts, they are very real and should be taken seriously.
Some essential resources:
- The FACTS about skin cancer, courtesy of The Skin Cancer Foundation. Major kudos are due to this org for their recently launched “Go With Your Own Glow” campaign, which was launched in conjunction with beauty editors who decided that the sun had set on tanning as a fashion statement.
- Skin cancer does not discriminate – all ages, races and genders are susceptible. Read stories from The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
- Facts About Sunscreen from The American Academy of Dermatology. Make sure you are using the right one, the right way!
- ABCD’s of Melanoma Detection for at home inspection, from The American Academy of Dermatology.