May is Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month, and as a melanoma survivor, this awareness month is near and dear to my heart. Melanoma and other skin cancers are some of the most preventable cancers – and one of the easiest to detect early. It’s easier said than done though – to change a lifetime of habits, some that span many generations. I spent many summers at my community pool or running on the beach during our family vacations. Solarcaine was a staple in our bathroom closet. Sunscreen, less so.
Enter the teenage years, tans were IT. This pasty, pale white girl had to have one! So pull out the baby oil and head to the tanning booth. Even I shake my head when I think about it. Would I do it any differently had I known? I like to think so, but hindsight is 20/20. What I can do differently is to make sun safety a part of my kids’ lives – from the start. Teach them not just about SPF, but about finding shade, wearing a hat, avoiding that mid-day sun and making this just part of life, not some extra chore.
It’s a whole culture change – and we know those changes can take years. Problem is, we don’t have years. A skin cancer diagnosis is more common than all other cancers diagnoses combined. Melanoma is the most common cancer diagnosis for 20 somethings and one person dies from melanoma every hour. We’ve got to change the sun worshipping culture with this generation.
To get that ball rolling, I challenge you to think about your hobbies, activities and how you interact with the sun. Analyze your sunscreen use – do you really use a shot glass full when applying? When you go to watch your kid’s soccer game, do you seek out the shade? Do you wear a hat and sunglasses? How about long sleeves? Do you apply sunscreen to your kids before the game? Use this awareness month to evaluate your sun safety practices and institute changes.
How well do you know your skin? This is part 2 of your challenge. Know what your moles and other markings look like – front, back, and everywhere in between. My melanoma was found early because I knew something was different. The dermatologist did not think it was anything. But I knew it looked different, and I’m glad I did. If anything looks different over time, talk with your primary care provider or dermatologist.
Ready to get started on the challenge? There’s no time like the present! There are lots of great resources to learn more:
- Learn more about sun safety on OncoLink.
- Learn more about prevention and performing a skin exam from the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Learn more about prevention of melanoma from the Melanoma Research Foundation.