In honor of my dermatology appointment today, and because I was inspired by a recent conversation with a friend, I’ve decided to scare you all into wearing sunblock. EVERY. DAY. (Friends/readers with melanoma, you may not want to read this, as I’m intending this to scare people, and some things may be triggering for you).
I’ll be honest. I didn’t wear sunblock everyday. I never wore makeup, foundation, or moisturizer on a daily basis, so I didn’t have any products that also contained sunscreen.
I wore it when I knew I would be out in the sun for a while, but I hated the way it felt, smelled and clogged my skin. I would rationalize that I was only outside for literally 5 minutes of sunlight a day (the time it took to walk from my bus stop to work). I would rationalize that I needed to get my vitamin D. I didn’t feel like I “needed” it, so I never wore it.
Obviously, I did need it.
Here are some scary things you should know:
- One bad sunburn before the age of 18 increases your risk of melanoma by FIFTY PERCENT. How many bad sunburns did you have as a kid?
- The survival rate for stage IV melanoma is not good. I just tried to look it up, and scared myself again, so you’ll have to find it yourself. Under 10%.
- Melanoma is a tricky bastard. I had my bad mole for maybe a month or two before seeing the doctor. In that short time, it had already progressed to a deep mole, ulcerated, and spread to a lymph node. It literally ulcerated between the time I made my appointment and my actual appointment, less than a week later.
- The incidence of melanoma for women under 30 has increased 50 percent since 1980.
- It’s the most common cancer for young adults 25-29, second most common for people 15-29 (see this site for more stats).
- Every eight minutes, someone will be diagnosed with melanoma.
- Every hour, a person will die from melanoma.
- If you haven’t already, watch this:
What can you do to prevent melanoma?
- Obvious things, like not sunbathing or going to tanning booths are a great start.
- Stay out of the sun, wear hats or other protection from the sun. This is more effective than sunblock. Last summer, I wore my huge floppy hat CONSTANTLY, since I couldn’t put sunblock on my fresh scars yet, and I got so many compliments on it. This summer, I plan on getting a hat and other sun protective clothing from Coolibar.
- As mentioned, wear sunblock ALL THE TIME. This is the one I use.* I’ve used it literally every single day since last summer and I still have plenty left, so don’t let cost deter you. Whatever you use should be at least SPF 30 and you should reapply after 2 hours (even if you haven’t been in the sun during that time). Even five minutes of sun exposure a day adds up to quite a bit over a year.
- If you are moley, like me, take pictures of your entire body. Everywhere. Even where there aren’t moles (because if you get one there, you’ll say “Was this always there?” and have no picture to confirm). Then, on the first of the month, pull out those pictures and use them as a comparison for your body. If you don’t want to do a whole body scan every month, at least check the “suspicious” ones. And go see a dermatologist!
- Talk to other people about the dangers of tanning, sunbathing or other reckless behaviors. Use me as an example.
- Know the ABCDEs of melanoma. (“E” is especially important. It stands for “evolution.” My mole actually didn’t fit ABC or D, but it was evolving quickly). Some doctors also include “F” for “Funny looking.” I actually think this is a really great term because most of my benign moles look like melanomas, but my melanoma looked like a “regular” mole EXCEPT that it looked VERY different from all of my other moles. It was raised, very dark and had very regular borders, which almost none of my moles have.
With that, I’m going online to buy my new sunhat!
*I have to say that since I began using sunblock daily, my skin has improved immensely. Little sunspots have disappeared and even my dermatologist commented that all of my moles and freckles appear much lighter now. It’s not too late to start, even if you already have some sun damage to your skin.
My derm appointment was relatively uneventful. Emmie cooed and laughed at the doctor as he checked out all my moles, comparing them to the digital photos I have stored on my iPad (definitely the way to go!). And I’m now batting a perfect .1000 for moles removed. We took one off my leg, mostly because we both just decided it was better to do so, so now I’ve had at least one mole removed at every derma appointment! And in other interesting news, I learned that thongs are the preferred undergarments for dermatologists doing mole scans (less chance of missing something underneath panties). Duly noted.