My best friend Jill has skin cancer; we are waiting to see if it is malignant. It is not the first time she has shown up at work with several red and blackened spots smeared with ointment on her arm and now on the bridge of her nose. She is a beautiful woman, and for the 68 years she has graced our planet, one would look at her and guess 20 years less. She has the energy of a 25 year old, the wisdom of her age and an attitude that conquers any situation as opportunity. She spent years in the Canadian sun playing tennis, and like most of us, she used no sun block.
When I was a kid, we would coat out bodies in baby oil and lie in the sun unprotected for hours. We would compare the depth of our lobster red burn, knowing in 4 days it would all peel off, taking with it a layer of our youth and health. The sun spots we see popping up on our faces and necks that we now spend thousands of dollars trying to get rid of are a result of what we did way back when. Treatments like IPL, laser and micro dermabrasion, are an attempt to arm us from any further damage. If only we knew then what we know now, that is, wear your sun block and don’t forget your hat!
Don’t get me wrong, I love to bask in the sun. I am a somewhat fair Spanish, Mexican and French mixture. My blood runs towards the sun. My ideal vacation day is: workout, eat great food and lie in the sun with a fabulous book. I love the way my body feels soaking up all those rays, and how my skin looks when tawny and tan. But now I know the price is just too high. And if I want my 13 year old daughter to grow up with healthy skin and less risk of melanoma, than I have to set an example of, and here we go again, a “Healthy Choice” — that is, sun block and shade!
Think of it this way, sunbathing is bad for you, just like being overweight, using drugs, drinking and driving, and having unprotected sex — all of which, if continued, could kill you. I think that is a pretty good reason not to lie in the sun. And don’t think a tanning parlor is any better; it’s not. It’s just a faster road to skin cancer. Who would have guessed that all those days we sat reading that juicy novel and sipping that margarita could lead us to the doctor’s office with a suspicious bump? Some argue that we need sunlight to give us enough vitamins to keep our bones strong. But we can get all we need by spending 5 or 10 minutes each day outdoors and or taking vitamins D supplement.
I could go into great detail as to how sun damages, but suffice to say the lighter you are, the younger you are when exposed and the longer you are exposed to the damaging rays, the greater the danger.
UVA rays are the most serious and are the greatest cause of malignant melanoma. These are the same type of rays used in tanning beds. UVB rays are more likely to burn the skin and are just as harmful. UV rays break down the collagen in the skin, making it sag and wrinkle. And, lastly, the free radicals cause cancer by altering your DNA. Wow!…
“The tan is just the burning of your cells,” as my daughter recently stated. I don’t know about you, but I would like to keep as many of my cells as possible. So from now on, when I am vacationing, I am still going to enjoy my workout, eat some really great food, and read a juicy book — but I’ll do it under the cabana…besides, what could be better than a cabana and a cabana boy to serve me?
**Update July 18, 2005. Jill’s skin cancer was successfully removed. She now has a clean bill of health!