Memo: Do Skin Check ✅

In the earliest days of humankind, every person possessed natural skin pigmentation that absorbed harmful ultraviolet rays, thereby preventing damaged skin. After hundreds of thousands of years of human migration and evolution, lighter skin required additional sun protection. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks found solutions in natural ingredients such as rice bran, lupine and olive oil. Throughout most of what we think of as ‘human history,’ the more fair skin has generally been representative of higher social status, the implication being the absence of outdoor laboring. Fast forward to the youth of Gen X’ers like myself who spent our summers pouring baby oil over our skin, squeezing lemon juice over our hair and lying out in our back yards with foil shades in attempts to tan our bodies. Apparently, Coco Chanel was among those to popularize tanning as the new life of leisure and picture of health which eventually transpired into the “the new precedent of beauty in Western culture.” In my youth, Coppertone was the popular brand of sunscreen with Sun Protection Factors (SPFs) of 2 or 4. Sometimes we used it; more likely it sat in the cabinet and lasted several years since we only applied it for trips to the beach. It wasn’t considered a daily necessity. My personal routine was to allow my skin to burn just a bit first, before applying sunscreen. Now, I’m paying for that skin abuse.

When I married my husband, an oncologist, I continued to spend a lot of time outdoors without sun protection, until the day he made a comment that caused me to immediately schedule a dermatological exam. He said, “I’ve seen too many 24 year-olds die of melanoma.” Despite my hyper-vigilant sun protection over the past decade, the additive effects of a lifetime of sun exposure are evident. To give you an example of just how much damage you get from daily exposure, look at the inside of your arms, then compare to the outside. The following picture is personally embarrassing. You are looking at my right forearm from each side. On the left is what all of my skin would look like if it hadn’t been facing the sun.

What 53 years of daily sun exposure does to fair-skinned individuals. The white patches are permanent reminders of the destroyed pigment.

The month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. If you are over the age of 40 and have never had a comprehensive skin check, now is the time. My dermatologist suggested the following reminder, “Every year on your birthday, schedule an examination of your birthday suit.” Since hearing this, I’ve seen recommendations from a variety of sources for even more frequent examinations for persons at higher risk, such as myself; some say monthly, some weekly.

Visit the website and sign up for the social media skin check toolkit.

If you still need more convincing of the importance of routine skin checks, think of the member of the Vancouver Canucks management team who was saved by a fan in the stands who spotted a suspicious lesion on his skin. The gentleman turned out to have a Stage 2 melanoma which was easily treatable and with 98% 5-year survival rate. If this lesion had progressed to Stage 4 before detection, there would have only been a 23% 5-year survival rate

Student volunteer saves the day, and a life.

16 thoughts on “Memo: Do Skin Check ✅

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  1. Oh wow, I’ll never go outside again, seriously though thanks for the education! A lot of people of color like me mistakenly think this is not a problem that should concern them. That’s so not true, sure we have more protection, but we are still vulnerable to the dangers of the sun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true! More pigment is more protection but not without risk. Perhaps even at greater risk of severe burns with a false security of thinking you won’t burn. Also important to point out the delicate tissues of the eyes, mouth, ears, scalp… UV rays contribute to cataracts, ocular melanomas, as well as, basal and squamous cell carcinomas.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely in Hawaii! Another thing to consider is the reflective surfaces, particularly water. You get even more sun exposure on water because they reflect off the water. The last time we were in Hawaii my husband ended up with 3rd degree burns around his ankles because we had gone kayaking and he had been the one pushing all of us into the water therefore his sunscreen washed off before getting in the boat. We were too inexperienced to know how long it would take us and that we needed more cover from the sun for our legs and feet since they were extended in front of us

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite informative. I’ve never had a skin check…never even thought of it. Those stats on the gen-xers are startling – thanks for that. I have one who never protects his skin. We live in a state that ‘shines’ all year round.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The point of one of your comments above, Black people tend to believe we cannot get skin cancer, and of course, that’s not true. I have a friend, who is several shades darker than I am, who had Stage 2 melanoma. We should all use sunscreen (especially nowadays) and have annual checkups!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing. Yes, one of those myths we need to end. I’m so glad your friend was able to catch it early. Also interesting, we all need some amount of sun to provide us with Vitamin D but certain types of sun are more harmful, such as on snow, water, closer to the equator or high on a mountain top. Even cloudy days are at higher risk because only the most harmful rays can pass through the cloud cover. A good guideline is if you will be in the sun for more than 15 minutes, you should really apply sunscreen. Maybe for darker skin, your guide could be 30 minutes but I don’t have data to prove that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And now we must consider sunscreen safe for marine life. I think most companies have made that adjustment in their formulas but again, I’ll have to do my research. I tend to stick to Neutragena since that was recommended by my first dermatologist but I’m sure technology has changed since then. I’ll have to do more research

        Liked by 1 person

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