At 26 years old I am finally getting some sense about summer time skin care, but it’s taken a half dozen doctors appointments and one nice big scar on my stomach for me to get there.
Meet my new bffs that Hadley, Jamie, and I are covered in every single day. Since moving to southern Arizona in March, we’ve all been trying to cover ourselves before every run and every outdoor outing.
I started noticing some interesting spots popping up on my body from my shoulders to my ankles about two years, but it wasn’t until I was pregnant that I started getting really nervous about them. In my (and my dermatologist’s) opinion, I am the perfect candidate for skin cancer, which makes me sad and ashamed to admit. My parents did nothing wrong; they slathered sunscreen on my siblings and me every chance they could growing up, but once I hit my teenage years, I started hitting the tanning bed every spring and got at least two lobster-red, very painful sunburns a season. I can’t remember the last summer that I didn’t start the season with a good sunburn. In fact, I usually welcomed the sunburn just to “get it out of the way” because it would usually turn into a nice base tan.
I also have melanoma (the most serious and occasionally deadly form of skin cancer) in my family; My aunt was diagnosed about 15 years ago. Thankfully she caught it early enough and is healthy today, but I’m not naïve enough to think that this couldn’t happen to me and be more serious.
When I went to my first doctor’s appointment back in January, I was hoping (and was pretty sure) that the doctor would look at my spots and brush them off as normal freckles and moles.
She didn’t. The next thing I know she’s circling spots all over my body to be photographed. I also had to go back the following week to get two abnormal-shaped freckles “hole punched” off of my stomach, hence the aforementioned scar.
Sure enough, those “freckles” came back as pre-cancerous, meaning they’re nothing to be too concerned about right now but have a high chance of turning into a form of cancer if not monitored closely.
Since moving to Arizona, I’ve already been to my initial referral appointment and will meet with another dermatologist mid-June to figure out what to do with the rest of these spots.
I did get a sunburn on my shoulders and arms two weeks ago at Jamie’s promotion ceremony, and I was devastated about it. I forgot to put extra sunscreen on both Hadley and me, and as soon as I got out of the car I starting freaking out; that sun was so hot. Besides taking pictures, I kept Hadley either under the tent or in her covered carseat. The sun hardly touched her. For me, 20 minutes (no exaggeration) of standing around talking, taking pictures, and waiting on line for food at an outdoor BBQ was enough to sizzle me. So frustrating, but I’ve finally realized that’s what I’m up against.
I also lost it on FaceTime with my mom last week when I thought Hadley had a severe sunburn on her cheeks and chin. I’d spent 45 minutes outside with a friend and her daughter taking pictures under a big tree that was perfectly shaded. Hadley didn’t have sunscreen on (shame on me big time), but she did wear a hat most of the time. A few hours after we got home her face turned fire-engine red and she was ballistic. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t protected my helpless baby and her precious skin.
My mom helped me realize that it might not be a sunburn but maybe an allergic reaction since we’re trying new foods, and I think she was right (she did share a tangerine-carrot juice popsicle with her dad for the first time the night before). Her skin was fine the next day and we haven’t tried another popsicle!
Skin cancer was brought up again in our family a few weeks ago when my father-in-law found out that a spot he had removed from his nose was basal cell carcinoma. He had to have a nice surgery and should be just fine. Shook everybody up though!
According to skincancer.org –
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
Just one indoor tanning session increases users’ chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent, and each additional session during the same year boosts the risk almost another two percent.46
Daily sunscreen use by adults under age 55 can reduce skin aging.
I’m glad I’m getting a head-start on what could have been a very serious health concern. If you have the slightest concern about one spot or 10, go see a derm asap and get checked.