This blog was originally published here by Disruptive Women in Health Care.
I went to a tanning bed before attending a destination wedding, thinking I was getting a “base coat” that would prevent me from getting a sunburn.
I used a sun lamp in high school, thinking it would clear my blemished skin.
I used to wrap a vinyl record album cover with aluminum foil to create a sun reflecting visor in an effort to focus and magnify the sun’s rays.
I used baby oil or sun tan lotion with an SPF of 2 or 4 when tanning.
But, in the words of Maya Angelou, “Now that I know better, I do better.”
The choices I made were based on a lack of information or bad information I was given in my childhood. Now, as a mother of teenagers and executive director of the Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, I am passionate about educating my family and other families about the dangers of indoor tanning beds and how to be safe in the sun.
Did you know that just one indoor tanning session increase the chances of developing melanoma by 20%?
Did you know that over the past 40 years, melanoma incidence has increased by a staggering 800 percent among young women ages 18 to 39, which is attributed to the persistent use of indoor tanning devices?
Did you know that the most deadly form of skin cancer—melanoma—kills 9,000 Americans and is diagnosed in more than 63,000 people annually?
Each year we pay more than $8 billion to treat this disease. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, and it is on the rise.
What is most frustrating about the rise in skin cancer is that, while some cancers are not preventable, skin cancer is highly preventable. All it takes is avoiding tanning beds and practicing simple habits while in natural sunlight: apply—and reapply—broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB protection with SPF 30 or more); wear protective clothing, hats and eyewear; and seek shade during the daytime hours when the sun is the strongest. No one is perfect 100 percent of the time, so watch for changes in your skin and moles and get annual complete body screenings by your health professional.
I suspect some of you, especially young women, think you look better with a tan and you’ll roll the dice on skin cancer. Bad idea. Skin cancer can be diagnosed at any age. There are so many good options available, such as bronzers, to help give you that glow you seek.
And remember this: you can’t turn back time. I am always struck by how many women in their 30s and beyond list “not using sunscreen when I was young” as one of their regrets. Perhaps the regret comes during a daily look in the mirror at a scar from a cancerous mole that was removed, or maybe it comes from seeing wrinkles and sun damage that could have been avoided. Whatever you motivation, the prescription is still the same: protect your skin.
Know more. Do better. For more information visit preventcancer.org.