July 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm , by Julie Bain
I have such a love-hate relationship with the sun. It has warmed me, helped me feel relaxed and sexy, and caused my petunias to proliferate so fast you can almost hear them grow. On the other hand, it has burned me, caused the hostas on my terrace to dry and curl up like crepe paper, and sprinkled unwanted brown spots across my white Scottish-Swedish skin. It has also given me skin cancer. Six times, to be precise, starting when I was only in my 20s.
I avoid the sun now—and I miss it. I’m envious when I see lithe, tanned young girls cavorting on the beach while I stroll in my hat, sunglasses, long sleeves and SPF 100. And I worry that I’m not getting enough vitamin D. Having low levels of this vitamin (well, actually, it’s a hormone), has been linked to a higher risk of cancer, vascular disease, infectious illnesses, autoimmune disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, dementia, Parkinson’s and even obesity, according to studies. And we don’t know if supplements really do the trick—or what the appropriate dose is.
So I sneak in a few minutes of unprotected sun on my arms and legs from time to time and bask in those moments of forbidden warmth, savoring it like memories of an old lover. But then I remember the pain and fear of those skin cancers and remind myself that melanoma is the fastest-growing cancer among the young. It can kill. So I put on my sunscreen and get to work.
I’m honored to have had a hand in our three-part series on skin cancer that runs in our June, July and August issues. You can read them all here. Part 1, “Freckle, Mole or Cancer?” focuses on diagnosis; part 2, “Addicted to the Sun,” looks at why we love our tans; and part 3, “Spot Check,” is about prevention and includes my own story, “My 20 Years of Skin Cancer.”
Because this is a subject so close to my own heart, I put all ego aside and asked my assistant to film my recent skin check at my dermatologist’s office. You can see a few “highlights” by clicking on the video above. There’s no good lighting or script here, folks: it’s just an unadulterated view of what you need to do to detect and prevent skin cancer. Develop a relationship with a good dermatologist who specializes in skin cancer, and get checked out at least once a year. Have a great summer, and save your skin!
Sun image copyright AlienCat, Fotolia.com
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