What You Need to Know About Melanoma
By LISA LYNN
As I'm writing to share my story, I'm watching families with babies and small kids on the beach sunning themselves all day. It’s hard to sit here without wanting to warn them of the dangers of the sun. Because what I didn't know about the sun and skin cancer almost killed me.
Now I'm on a mission to help protect you and your most precious possessions in life -- your children. Studies show that children who have had five or more bad sunburns have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
That doesn't even take into account the teenage girls who think that pale isn't pretty, so they spend countless hours baking in the sun or lying in "cancer coffins," better known as tanning beds.
[Read More: Why Just One Indoor Tanning Session Is Bad for You]
It's my hope that sharing my story will help you rethink everything you thought you knew about the sun and its dangers.
A Tanning Fanatic
I've struggled my entire life with body-image issues. Not only was I a gym and workout addict, but I was addicted to tanning as well. Indoor tanning, outdoor tanning -- it didn't matter. I love all things sunny.
When my tan began to fade, I would hop into a tanning bed. Those same tanning beds are advertised as "safer than the sun" and helpful for building a "base tan" to protect you from the harmful burning rays of the sun.
What they should do is hand you a business card for an oncologist with each tanning-bed visit. Statistics shows that indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never used a tanning bed. Yes, you read that correctly.
Now I'm a happy wife and mom, and I take great care of myself by eating right, getting enough sleep, managing my stress and attending church to take care of my spiritual being. I buckle up in the car and floss regularly. In other words, I do all those things you're supposed to do. Little did I know, however, that my incessant need for a "healthy glow" of a tan was about to bring me down.
The Victory Scar
I'm 47 years old and get regular skin checks as part of my routine physicals. I was aware of a mole on my leg, and I noticed that it was beginning to change ever so slightly. And even though my doctor wasn't concerned, I had a gut feeling telling me to have it removed.
I'm glad I listened to my inner voice. If I had waited any longer, my melanoma could have grown larger and spread to my lymph nodes, which can happen very quickly. If that had happened, it's possible that I wouldn't be here today. The melanoma was stage 1, which makes it much easier to treat. My doctor was able to remove the melanoma, leaving a small but noticeable scar that I refer to as my "victory scar." The emotional scar from being told you've got cancer is taking longer to heal.
Any cancer survivor will tell you that each day you live in fear, wondering if the next checkup will be the one where they tell you the cancer is back.
What You Need to Know:
- skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.
- There's no such thing as "safe" tanning.
- If you have light-colored eyes and fair skin your risk of melanoma is higher.
- You need to protect yourself from the UV rays every day, not just when you go to the beach or on vacation.
- You can still get a sunburn on cloudy, hazy days.
- Use a suncreen with "broad-spectrum protection" (protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher and apply it every two hours.
[Read More: The 30 Safest Sunscreens and 3 to Avoid]
Long story short: My quest for body-image perfection has now cost me time and lots of money for doctor checkups every three months. I now get any suspicious moles removed immediately and constantly wonder if the melanoma has come back.
There's no way to reverse skin damage. Yes, you can prevent future harm, but the old saying "the damage has already been done" is certainly true in this case. It's a horrible way to live, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. That is why I'm opening up my heart and life to anyone who will listen.
Readers -- Have you or anyone you know had skin cancer or several sunburns? Do you wear sunscreen every day? How do you protect yourself from too much sun exposure? Leave a comment below and let us know.
More information on melanoma prevention, treatment and survival can be found in Win the Fight: Stomp Out Melanoma by Lisa Lynn and Dr. Deepak Narayan.
Celebrity fitness and metabolic nutrition expert Lisa Lynn is the author of the award-winning The Metabolism Solution: Lose 1 Pound a Day and Melt Belly Fat Fast. She frequently blogs for Sharecare, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, Muscle and Fitness and other prominent media outlets. Lisa created the Metabolic Boosting Weight-Loss System and regularly appears on TV shows like Meredith Vieira and Dr. Oz and on countless other media outlets to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss for the sluggish metabolism (over-40 crowd) and muscling up with metabolic workouts.
1. SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) data. seer.cancer.gov.
2. American Cancer Society, 2015. cancer.org.