In my line of work, I see a lot of horrible things happen to people at no fault of their own. Often times, their illnesses could not have been predicted or prevented.
Skin cancer, however, is something that can be detected early and there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk.
I was a sun worshiper when I was younger and I shudder when I think of all the time (and $$$) I spent in tanning booths. Okay…it was my parents’ money, but regardless. I burned and peeled and blistered too many times to count. I had a basal cell carcinoma removed from my shin a couple of years ago. Fortunately basal cells are pretty harmless. Melanoma on the other hand, can be life threatening. I’ve taken care of far too many patients dying of melanoma over the years, several of them my age or younger.
Given my intimate relationship with the sun and my experience caring for patients with melanoma, I’m petrified of receiving the diagnosis myself. Hopefully that day won’t come (crossing fingers, throwing salt, knocking on wood). The “good” thing about skin cancers (squamous cell, basal cell, melanoma) is that they can be detected early and treated. And that early detection could literally save your life. That’s why yesterday I saw my lovely dermatologist for my yearly skin check. She froze a precancerous spot off of my eyelid and took a mole off of my stomach that looked a little questionable. She usually gives me the option of “keeping an eye” on my moles or taking them off. I always choose to take them off because if I “keep an eye,” I will be keeping an eye several times a day, every day, measuring dimensions and perseverating to the point of insanity. JUST CUT IT OFF!!!
So…because melanoma is a b!t$#, and I don’t want any of you lovely people to die of skin cancer, please consider the following:
ALWAYS WEAR SUNSCREEN! Lots of it….slathered EVERYWHERE!
Slather your kids in sunscreen.
For the LOVE OF PETE, DON’T use TANNING BEDS! If you are pale like me, just embrace it….I’m doing my part to bring pallor back! But maybe get a CBC just to make sure your not anemic.
See a dermatologist for yearly skin checks.
Don’t forget about your scalp, ears and eyelids! They can burn too!
Did I mention NO TANNING BEDS!?!?!?
This public service announcement brought to you by your friendly, albeit paranoid, Palliative Care physician.