“You have cancer.” Those are the three words I heard in the summer of 2016. My dermatologist called to tell me my biopsy came back as something called melanoma. I went home and researched exactly what melanoma was, and that’s when my world turned upside down. Melanoma is the one percent of skin cancer that forms as tumors when pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, mutate and become cancerous. These tumors can form on your skin or internally in your lungs, brain, and liver. Once you have melanoma, your risk of getting another melanoma tumor increases.
Unfortunately, I’ve had three melanoma tumors within the last two years. I attribute my melanoma diagnosis to my time playing sports as a kid and long summer days swimming in the pool. In the eighties, people didn’t know just how harmful long hours in the sun could be. As a mom of three young children, I take sun safety very seriously.
Here are a few of my favorite sun safety tips:
Cover up: Whether it be a hat, a shirt, or sunglasses, covering up is one of your best defenses against the sun’s rays.
Sunblock: I use a daily sunblock in my moisturizer. If I know we’re going to an outdoor activity, I add sunblock with zinc. My kids are in the habit of having sunblock applied every morning before school. I like to know they have that added protection during school activities.
Find an area with shade: I know we can’t always choose our locations, but I seek out parks and playgrounds that provide adequate amounts of shade.
Limit your sun time: Especially between the hours of 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Just say NO to tanning: The use of tanning beds before age 30 is associated with a 75 percent increase in melanoma risk.
Get to know your skin: A large number of melanoma tumors are actually found by the patients themselves. Look for moles or spots that change color or shape. Make a yearly dermatology appointment to cover all of your bases.
Know that the sun’s rays are stronger when you’re in or near water because the rays reflect off the water.
Please remember these sun safety tips during upcoming summer activities.
Julie Wotring is a proud board member of Stripes of a Warrior, a local nonprofit that financially helps people fight cancer. For more information, please check out their website at
www.stripesofawarrior.com or find them on Facebook.