A week ago I went to see my dermatologist for a regular skin check. I had to have a mole removed for a biopsy, as it appeared to be atypical. I got my results back today, which could have been better, but they also could have been a lot worse. I have to go back to have more of the lesion removed. The results showed moderate abnormality in the sample collected, which warrants them to remove more of the skin that surrounded the mole in case the skin cells in that area were affected. The wound is about the size of a dime right now, but will obviously be bigger once they go back into it. I was told that I would need stitches after the second procedure to help with the healing. Fingers crossed- I hope they only have to go back into it this one time.
Indoor tanning and outdoor tanning without protection was not only ignorant, but 100% not worth the consequences. I've been so much better about being cautious over the past few years, but once the damage is done- it's done. All I can do moving forward is continue to take preventative measures and protect the skin I'm in. I encourage all my followers, friends, family- everyone, to do the same and make annual skin check appointments to stay on top of any moles and marks that may be suspicious or evolve over time. As I said last week, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about one of my best friends, who found out she had melanoma after a regular visit to the dermatologist for a skin check. The news scared the hell out of everyone in our circle of friends. At the request of our friend, we made our skin check appointments to be checked out, too.
I had my skin check appointment today. I've always been able to breeze in and out of the doctor's office unscathed- without having to get anything suspicious removed, that is. Today was different. I prepared myself for the possibility that I may have some questionable moles on this sensitive vessel of mine and sure enough as always, my intuition was right on the money. I know people have moles removed all the time as a precaution so I'm not getting worked up about it. It's especially important for me to take precaution, as skin cancer runs in my family. My father has had basal cell carcinoma removed from different areas on his body quite a few times in the past five years or so.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common/ frequently occurring form of skin cancer today. BCCs are abnormal growths or lesions that arise in the skin's basal cells. BCCs may look like open sores, red patches, scars, or pink growths. In other words- not your "atypical" brown mole that may cause you to worry. The people at highest risk for BCC are those with blonde or red hair, fair skin, and blue, green, or hazel eyes. But of course, anyone with a history of excessive sun exposure or indoor tanning are at a higher risk for BCC (Skincancer.org).
The mole I had removed today didn't look like BCC by definition, though. It was brown, a bit asymmetrical, and had a blurred or fuzzy border. It had been concerning me for some time, so it's no surprise to me that the dermatologist pointed it out right away and said she wanted to remove it for a biopsy.
It's important to be checking your skin regularly for a number of reasons. I realized this when the nurse asked me about some of the moles I was worried about- I couldn't tell her how long they had been there, or if they had changed in size, shape, or color, and this is very important. I plan to be more aware of this moving forward.
Do you know your ABCDE's of skin cancer detection?
A- Asymmetry, or when the halves are not identical, is suggestive of melanoma.
B- Border irregularity is suggestive of melanoma if it is uneven or ragged.
C- Color variation is suggestive of melanoma if the lesion contains more than one color.
D- Diameter greater than 6 mm is suggestive of melanoma.
E- Evolving: change in size, shape, or color can be warning signs and are strong reasons to have your skin checked.
Everyone should have their skin checked on a yearly basis. It's better to be safe than sorry.
As for me, I should get my biopsy results within the next two weeks. My hope is that I get my results much sooner than later. Until then, I'm filling my head with positive thoughts and envisioning the best possible outcome.
Skincancer.org. The Skin Cancer Foundation, n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2013. <http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/basal-cell-carcinoma>.
Today's post is inspired by one of my very, very best, most beautiful friends/soul sisters/college roommates. I woke up to a group text this morning- one eye half opened I began reading her message to all of us. No sooner did I read the word, melanoma, did I shoot the fuck out of my bed and call her in a panic. This friend of mine, I never have to worry about her. I worry about her the least in fact, because she's such a strong, resilient lady who I admire and turn to when I need to get MY shit in line. Yesterday a feeling came over me- a feeling of, "I'm worried about her- I don't know why, but I'm worried that something is wrong." This has been happening to me a lot lately. For whatever reason, I've been picturing things before they happen or knowing about things without really being certain of them. Thankfully she reassured me that it's stage 1 melanoma, which means it's treatable. Her doctor told her if she had waited 2-3 more years before getting it checked, she could have died from it. Hearing this made my heart sink. I don't know what I would do or who I would be without her. She told me she wanted me to get checked. So, minutes after getting off the phone with her, I made my skin check appointment.
Skin cancer differs from other cancers in that your skin is the largest organ in your body. Depending on the severity of the skin cancer, there's not much one can do to treat it. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, which is why I'm so relieved that my friend caught it early on and it can be treated. These growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, a.k.a. genetic defects, which make the skin cells multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. This unrepaired DNA damage is most often caused by UV radiation from tanning beds or sunlight (The Skin Cancer Foundation, 2013). I don't even want to fathom the amount of damage I have done to my own skin knowing that indoor tanning increases one's chances of getting melanoma by 75% (Cassidy, 2013). If that statistic doesn't scare you away from tanning salons for the rest of your life, you should have your head examined. Sunburns and the disappearing ozone layer affect men and women alike. However, the rise in melanoma diagnoses is among young women, which leads researchers to believe that the big cause for this is indoor tanning. The incidence of melanoma has increased eightfold among women ages 18 to 39 since 1970. A Mayo Clinic dermatologist surgeon shares with Women's Health, "Other studies have shown an increase, but this study found melanoma occurring in women 705 percent more often. It's astounding."
Warning signs: Do you know what the ABCDE's of a skin check are?
A- Asymmetry: if you draw a line through the mole, the two halves won't match.
B- Border: the borders of early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
C- Color: having a variety of colors in your mole is another warning sign. Some moles may have tan, brown, and black in them. A melanoma could also have blue, red, or another color in it.
D- Diameter: melanomas are usually larger then the diameter of the eraser on a pencil. Depending on when they're detected, they may also be smaller.
E- Evolving: any change in shape, size, color, or any other characteristic including bleeding, itching, crusting, not healing, etc. is also dangerous.
Check out images of the ABCDE's of a skin check HERE.
It's so tremendously important to protect our skin against UV radiation- tanning beds or sunlight. Sunscreen should be worn when you're in the sun and especially on days when it's "cloudy" and hazy. Cloudy, hazy days at the beach or out in the sun tend to be some of the most dangerous days, as people think they're not getting any sun when in fact, they are. I'm not going to bullshit you. You know I never do. I have been ignorant about applying sunscreen and protecting my skin from UV damage plenty of times. When I was in Rhode Island two weeks ago, I made the brilliant decision not to put sunscreen on until I had already been at the beach for two hours. I'm still peeling. It's not sexy, smart, or safe. My first job was working at a tanning salon when I was 15 years old. I would tan 4 times a week, itch, and STILL feel like I wasn't tan enough. It was disgusting. It's an addiction and a very unhealthy one at that.
As for sunscreen- yes, many of them contain all kinds of toxic shit. But, that's why I'm here as your sensitive guide. I'm going to sensitively advise all of you not to purchase sunscreen sprays for more than one reason. 1: It's at the top of EWG's 2013 sunscreen avoid list due to inhalation risks. 2: You'd be the asshole who has decided to park it in front of me on the beach and start spraying when the wind blows in my direction, contaminating my sensitive bubble, which I work so hard to protect. 3: Even the FDA expressed concerns about the health risks of spray screens, and let's be real- the FDA is fucking incompetent so that says something.
Anyway, I'm providing a link to EWG's 2013 guide to safer sunscreens with all kinds of awesome information HERE. I love EWG and I love this site. It's tremendously informative and you can take a look at hundreds of sunscreens (organic, natural, sensitive-friendly, etc.) and their hazard scores. By clicking on a product you can view the reasons why that product earned its specific hazard score, its UV absorbance, health concerns, ingredients, and more.
EWG~ What NOT to bring on vacation:
Super high SPFS (like SPF 100)
Loose powder sunscreens
Combined SPF and bug repellent products
Find out why HERE
Cassidy, Meg. "Skin Cancer Cella." Women's Health. N.p., 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 9 Aug. 2013. <http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/tanning-beds>.
"Melanoma ." The Skin Cancer Foundation. N.p., 2013. Web. 9 Aug. 2013. <http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma>.