Weâ€™re the Golden State- home of sun-made raisins, bleach-blonde surfers and tanned skin. California is often perceived as being Hollywood from the north border to the south.
Although we who actually live here know that this is imply not the case, it appears that many of us are trying to live out these stereotypes at the same time.
In the Fresno area alone, there are over 182 results for â€œtanning salonâ€ on Google.
While the immediate results of laying out in the sun or fake-n-baking may be tempting, it comes at risky cost.
At least thatâ€™s what statistics reveal. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reports that skin cancer rates are rising dramatically, â€œIf current trends continue, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.â€
While the majority of the skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, which is usually curable and does not spread to other parts of the body, the more serious form of cancer called melanoma is on the rise. The AAD further notes that â€œmelanoma is the second most common cancer in women aged 20 to 29,â€ next to breast cancer.
Unfortunately, I have realized this statistic in my own life.
In the last few months, my mom has had more than three moles removed, by a razor blade I might add. All three were found to be abnormal, but notably one was basal cell carcinoma and another was the beginning stage of melanoma, which takes the lives of one person per hour in the United States alone according to the AAD.
If a mole is found to be abnormal, it is common to take out more skin surrounding the area to be cautious. My mom required skin grafts from her ear to replace the skin cut from her nose in order to remove any spread of the basal cancer. The pre-melanoma mole on her leg left her with numerous stitches and a deep gash.
Knowing that melanoma can be hereditary, my sister and I were also examined by a dermatologist. My sister has had two moles removed in the last month, one needing more skin removed because it is abnormal.
I had a suspicious-looking mole removed just last week- I am still waiting for the results.
My entire immediate family has gone to tanning salons in the past. Not religiously, but on average we went one month out of a year. We have also spent our fair share of time laying by the pool-side. Even though we wore light sunscreen, it obviously was not sufficient.
I canâ€™t tell you how much regret that my mom, sister and I have for choosing to tan our skin instead of protecting it. However, I can tell you that looking good in a spaghetti-strap dress was never worth the amount of pain we are going through now.
One of the worst parts is that we knew the risks of our actions while we doing it! We heard the PSAâ€™s and read the warning labels, but we still chose to be naÃ¯ve and ignorant in our â€˜sun-kissed bliss.â€™
There are so many types of cancer that are unpredictable and that we are unable to defend ourselves against. But for those types that scientists, doctors and patients can warn us about- we should listen to them and protect our body.
Skin cancer can be prevented in most cases and early detection can save the lives of millions. The AAD urges seven sun-protection practices on their Web site including avoiding deliberate tanning, generously applying sunscreen to all exposed skin every day, and seeking shade when appropriate.
I am thankful that my family was able to identify our suspicious moles fairly early on, thus hopefully removing any risk of death from skin cancer.
But I urge you not to follow in my path and learn the hard way. Or if you still practice unsafe tanning, please stop!
Educate yourself about cancer prevention and spread the word. Life is too valuable to throw it away for vanity.
For more information about skin cancer, including prevention and diagnosis, visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s Web site.