I had a wake up call this week regarding sun exposure and wearing sunscreen. I live in sunny Florida and have visited some very nice places with great beaches that are near the equator. I've mistakenly thought that my olive tone skin would protect me. While darker skin is less likely to be affected negatively by the sun, no one is immune. I want to share my experience in case it can help someone else.
Paia Beach, Maui, Hawaii
when I am out exploring beaches and Islands. I grew up in Vermont where we only had a few weeks of really hot and sunny weather during the year. We didn't really think about sunscreen because we wanted to soak in as much of the sunlight as we could. I was a tomboy and I was always outdoors. We also had a pool and I never really worried about getting a sunburn.
I As a teenager we used baby oil when laying in the sun. When I went to college, we made a point of being out during the PTH 's - also known as the prime tanning hours between 10 AM and two PM. I will tell you in this post are the hours when the sun is the strongest and most dangerous and we need to be the most careful.
When I was in my 20s I discovered tanning beds. At that time most people believed that tanning beds were better for you than the sun. That belief is now said to be very untrue.
I went to a dermatologist last week and pointed out some moles that I have developed in adulthood. I also pointed out a small spot on my nose which the doctor might not have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out. It was on the side of my nose which is a very typical area for certain types of skin cancer to develop. When the doctor saw it, she immediately said that it needed to be removed.
I had to wait nearly 2 weeks for the biopsy to come in it came back as a pre-cancerous lesion so it is not cancer and basically had about a one in five chance of becoming cancer. If it had come back as cancer, I would have faced 15 days of radiation five days a week for three weeks. She did recommend that in the fall I go back for a very deep chemical peel. She wants me to wait because having something like this done in the summer can make your skin extra sensitive.
So what will I do differently in the future? I will do my best not to spend a lot of time in the sun between 10 AM and 2 PM if I do need to be in the sun I will make sure that I use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF or above. I will wear a wide brimmed hat and reapply sunscreen every hour or so. One should also need to make sure that the expiration date on my sunscreen is good as it doesn't last forever.
I have also learned through this ordeal that everyone should check their skin frequently for any changes. Our skin is the largest organ in your body and it's not a bad idea to have a yearly check up or more often if you are at risk for skin cancer. If you have a relative with the most serious type of cancer called melanoma, you are more likely to develop it. Any moles that are larger than the size of a pencil eraser or that are very dark colored or have an asymmetrical border should be looked at by a doctor. Melanoma is almost always curable if caught early. If is if it is not caught early it is extremely serious.
I will still visit beaches, but thankfully I stopped just lying on the beach in the past five or six years. I prefer to sit under umbrellas or inside. As I've gotten older I don't really like just to sit still. I like to explore and walk around so just laying on the beach and baking in the sun is no longer fun to me.
All of this said I will still be very vigilant when it comes to my skin and visit a doctor at least once a year. Unfortunately it can take as much is 20 to 40 years for the full effects of sun damage to show up on your skin. You can read more about skin cancer here: Skin Cancer Facts
Here is a list of what I will do differently in the future:
1. Avoid the sun and or be extra careful between 10 AM and 2 PM
2. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF making sure to check the expiration date and re-apply every 1-2 hours.
3. Wear a wide brimmed hat at the beach - sunglasses are good too.
4. Visit a doctor at least once a year for a skin scan check. Anything suspicious especially unusual moles need to be checked immediately.
Luckily I love stormy weather - even at the beach:
Thank you so much for stopping by please leave any comments or questions. I hope you all have a wonderful week.