I have cancer. What’s worse; there is no doubt I gave it to myself. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most prevalent skin cancer in the U.S.; three in 10 Americans will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime. I anticipate that number will likely grow considering my generation’s goal to “always be bronzing.”
My thirst for a perennial glow was insatiable as a teenager. I’m of Welsh and German descent and am naturally quite fair skinned. Casper the Friendly Ghost could be my kin. But, now I’m spotted with freckles and moles from the innumerable sunbathing sessions that left my skin burned and blistered. When it peeled I would take sweet, sadistic pleasure in pulling off the sheets of dead skin.
Winter? Dash – my first job was a booth babe at a second rate hair and tanning salon. I would bake myself in the 20 minute booths and didn’t stop even when my body cried out in tingles and redness.
Fifteen years later and at 29 years-old I find myself in a dermatologist’s exam room being handed the Cancer Club card.
I will be fine, the doctor says. One surgery here and some check-ups there; I will live to bronze another day. But, because I am young it will likely be back.
One would think that Americans have been educated enough to stop burning themselves in the quest to achieve the perfect tan. But, I’m not so sure. Years ago I lost my lust for the sun when I realized wrinkles were a real threat. Vanity drives most measures, I’ve found. Now I’m of a small minority of my friend group who wears and reapplies sunscreen. Forget asking them to cover up or join me underneath the umbrella.
I may be on the lowest end of the fair complexion spectrum, but sun worshippers of all ethnicities need to take note of the damage caused by excessive exposure. Don’t put yourself through the agony of what the Cancer club could mean – sickness, hair loss, and even death.
Reduce your risk and follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommendations. In case you’ve forgotten: Use sunscreen SPF 15+ and reapply often, limit time in the sun, especially when the rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and wear clothing that covers exposed skin. After hearing my tale, several friends have scheduled appointments to be checked. Don’t wait for a loved one to suffer my fate, take it from me and protect yourself.