Tanning is a quick way to change up your look, but you might want to think twice before doing so. Lisa Pace from Tennessee used to tan all the time, insecure about her pale skin and freckles she would visit the tanning salon almost every day in college. It wasn’t until she went for a check-up a few years later that she realized the damage she had done to her skin.
In 2000, Pace was in her early 20’s and working her first full-time job with benefits so her mom encouraged to visit the doctor for a check-up. At a dermatologist appointment, the doctor found a few moles on her leg and sent them to be biopsied. It turned out to be melanoma, a type of skin cancer, and Pace needed to get surgery to have it removed. Although she was scared by the incident it didn’t stop her and she continued tanning just a few months after surgery.
The final straw was when she had to have surgery on her face to remove even more skin cancer. She decided to quit tanning for good but the damage had been done and by the time she was in her 30’s she had gotten over 70 surgeries all over her body to remove the melanoma. Looking back she regrets it all, saying “I would much rather be pale, white and covered in freckles then to have all of the scars that I have.” (1)
5 Easy Skincare Habits to Help Fight Skin Cancer
It’s crucial that you protect your skin from UV rays and there are so many easy ways to do so! By taking a few extra minutes out of your day to practice a healthy skincare routine, you are doing your body and overall health a huge favor.
1. Avoid Tanning Beds
Radiation from tanning beds can be stronger than the UV rays from the sun. Dr. Gary Goldenberg, assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai explains that it can mutilate the skin and “once cells are mutated, they continue to grow into tumors that are cancerous”. (2)
2. Cover Up
Long sleeves, hats, sunglasses, and pants will cover your skin and shield you from the sun’s rays. Look for clothing with ultraviolet protection factor or UPF 50 (it has a tighter weave and lets only 1 out of 50 of the sun’s rays reach the skin). You can check your clothing’s label to see if they have UPF. (2)
3. Wear Sunscreen!
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Apply sunscreen every day, even in the winter. The sun’s rays can reflect off of snow and water so it’s important to stay protected no matter what time of the year it is. Dermatologists recommend that you use a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF with UVA and UVB protection. If you’re swimming or exercising remember to apply every 20 minutes! (2)
However, not all sunscreens are created equal! Many conventional sunscreens are designed to be ultra-absorbant and they can leech endocrine disrupting chemicals into your system. Learn more about how to find safe sunscreen (or make your own) here.
4. Check Yourself
If you have lighter skin pigmentation, lots of exposure to the sun or a family history of skin cancer you should aim to check your skin once per month. Look for any bleeding, bumps, itching or sores. When checking for skin cancer remember the ABCDE’s:
Asymmetry: one half of the mole differs from the other half
Border: an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border
Color: the color of the mole is not consistent and varies from area to area. Can be shades of tan, brown, black and sometimes blue, red or white
Diameter: Melanomas are normally greater than 6mm or the size of a pencil’s eraser
Evolving: the mole or legion changes in size, shape or color over time (3)
5. Check Up Annually With Your Doctor
See a dermatologist annually to keep track of your skin’s health. Skin cancer comes in a lot of different forms and can be hard to spot if you don’t know what to look for. What seems like a beauty marker or acne to some can actually be skin cancer. (2)
‘Don’t get in that tanning bed’: At 42, this woman has had 86 skin cancers
Frank, G. (2018). ‘Don’t get in that tanning bed’: At 42, this woman has had 86 skin cancers. [online] TODAY.com. Available at: https://www.today.com/health/skin-cancer-woman-was-diagnosed-her-first-melanoma-23-t127232
2. COSTA, S.
7 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer
Costa, S. (2018). 7 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer. [online] US News. Available at: https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/slideshows/7-ways-to-prevent-skin-cancer?slide=2
3. MELANOMA | AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY
Aad.org. (2018). Melanoma | American Academy of Dermatology. [online] Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/melanoma#symptoms
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