Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hey Kids - Wear Sunscreen!

I'm completely amazed that tanning salons still exist. Not only are they generally located in some godforsaken strip mall entrenched in suburban sprawl, but tanning is just disgusting. If you are a fan of going to the tanning bed and this offends you, good. I hope this is as offensive as possible. You should be thinking about how horrible it is for you. It causes cancer, it causes wrinkles, and it makes you smell like burning flesh. Still think it's a good idea?

I used to go to the tanning bed a few times before prom in high school. All the cool kids were doing it. I begged my mom to let me, and I'd go lie in that UV ray death chamber for 20-30 minutes. Everybody likes the way they look when they're tan, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I never wore sunscreen as a kid. As a matter of fact I loved to load up on some Hawaiian Tropic suntan oil and get as tan as possible. I spent all day every day at the pool in the summers. It never occurred to me that there were consequences.

In 2001 I had an irregular mole on my shin. I ignored it...because that's what I do. My doctor spotted it during a physical, and he made an appointment for me with a dermatologist that same day. It turned out to be melanoma much to my complete surprise. We caught it early, and we were able to get clear margins with subsequent tissue removal. Who knew all that tanning would lead to this?

It was then that I became a disciple of sunscreen and being out of the sun as much as possible. It's impossible to live a normal life and not have some sun exposure, but I wear sunscreen every single day, 365 days a year. It's in my moisturizer, in my make-up, in my lotion. It's everywhere. I can spend a week at the beach, and due to my floppy SPF sun hat, sunscreen and umbrellas, I'll be just as delightfully pale as I was when I left.

A few weeks ago I was having my annual check-up with my dermatologist, and he noticed an irregular spot on my forehead that is basil cell carcinoma, another form of skin cancer. He removed the spot, and I'll be back in a few weeks to work on ensuring that the margins are clear. This is even AFTER my vigilant anti-sun regiment. I will be extra careful in the future.

I love the sunshine. There's little that feels better than lying outside on a warm summer day, cruising the lake on the pontoon boat or going for a run with the warm sun beating down on my face. But I enjoy all of those things with a layer of sun protection. I think it's possible to enjoy the sun and also protect your skin from it.

If you're still heading out to the strip mall in sprawl central to get your fake bake on, you should really think twice. It is a vile thing to do to your skin. And if the cancer doesn't scare you enough, who wants wrinkles?!?

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