Monday, November 11, 2013

There Are More Than 921,780 Reasons To Take Melanoma Seriously

And I'm one of them. That number. That "921,780" represents real people in the USA who, according to the National Cancer Institute, are currently living with melanoma. Stage of disease is irrelevant in this count, for those whose melanoma was in situ (stage 0) live with melanoma...not in the same way as those in the 3-4 range, but we all live with it. The fears. The stats. The not knowing what our own disease is silently doing...or not doing.

And that's just people in the USA! And that's just the person with the disease. That doesn't take into consideration the person/people living with and loving the one with. So...there are millions of people worldwide living with melanoma in some way or other. Millions.

And that number is growing. Worldwide. There are some impending cases that we can't prevent. The sad fact is, that even if everyone stopped going to tanning beds and we destroyed every single tanning bed on the face of this planet; if everyone stopped baking in the sun; if everyone used high, broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen correctly; and if everyone started getting a full-body skin check annually by a dermatologist who specializes in melanoma and skin cancer...there would still be an increase in melanoma diagnoses...for now. Damaged skin is skin that doesn't forgive or forget. Even if everyone, from this moment forward, took their skin-health seriously, the sins of the past will still reach out and bite many. They will pay the consequences for poor choices of their tanning past. Plus there are those cases that will happen because of genetics. There will be those cases that will happen because...because. There's much about the onset of this disease that isn't known.

But there is much about the onset that IS known! And if people will act on what we know, we can prevent many, countless, deaths in the future. We can prevent a lot of suffering and anguish. This is one cancer that we can actually prevent many cases from ever happening.

Raise your children to NEVER get in a tanning bed. If you have never tanned in one, DO NOT START! That decision and action will lower your chances of getting and, possibly, dying from melanoma dramatically.

Raise your children to NEVER lay out in the sun all day. And raise them that when they ARE outside to use broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen, use it correctly, and reapply according to directions. And you do the same. Teach them how to dress when outside to block the sun's rays. Teach them to respect the sun but not to fear the sun. We need the sun. We need the warmth it provides and the vitamin D. We need it. What we do not need, however, is to get burned by it. And when we DO get burned, that's OUR fault...not the sun's. Therefore, it behooves us to be out in the sun, and to teach our children to be out in the sun responsibly!

Back in the day, when I was a preteen and teen, back in the 60s and 70s, and before then, nothing was known about sun-safety. Suntan lotion was the thing in my day. It all smelled like coconut and it's purpose was to help us tan without burning. I hated it and didn't use it. I, and many of my peers, used Baby Oil (some even added iodine!). We didn't know. We know now.

I've never even seen a tanning bed up close and personal...have no intentions to, but I know the dangers of them and have witnessed deaths caused by them. When they first came out, people didn't really grasp their dangers. Parents gave permission for their teens to tan. They didn't know. They do now. And many so regret it but they cannot change history. However, they are doing everything in their power to change the future...YOUR future! Your children's future. There is so much we didn't know. We know now.

We didn't know that tanned skin is damaged skin. We thought it was sexy. We thought tanned equaled healthy. We thought pale was sickly and to be avoided at all costs. Many still do think that. We didn't know that we had it all wrong. We know now.

We didn't go to dermatologists to get full-body skin checks either. If I had done that, more than likely the doctor would have insisted on removing my mole that my Mama hated and wanted removed. Mama was right. It bit me. It gave me trouble. A dermatologist would have caught it and spared me a lot. Yeah, very few of us have bodies we love putting through that. Our bodies can embarrass us. And, yeah, full-body means full-body. But it's worth it and possibly life-saving. For everybody with a body regardless of skin tone. Melanoma strikes people of all ethnicities. We didn't know the value of being proactive and seeing a dermatologist every year, whether we think we need to or not. We know now.

There are millions of reasons to take melanoma seriously. Seriously. And I'm one of them. Listen to me. Listen to those of us in the melanoma community. Learn the facts about this disease.

And maybe, just maybe, you won't become reason 921,781.