I’m switching gears here for a public service announcement about Skin Cancer.
I had a 10 mm spot of basal cell carcinoma removed from my left temple near my hair line last week. After two rounds of a Mohs procedure and 12 stitches later the spot was cancer free but I was sure I found about four more spots like it for next time.
Everyone knows you should wear sunscreen when you are outside. Everyone knows that pale light haired people with blue eyes have the most risk. Most people also know the Ozone layer has been thinning and disappearing over most cities so the amount of sun radiation getting through is much higher than it was 20 years ago. And lastly, never tan at a tanning salon with those horrible tanning beds.
Most people don’t know these things I learned at the Dermatology Institute where I had my Skin Cancer removed:
1. You can still get sun damage through windows of your house and car. They mention that men usually have spots on the left side of their face and left arms while women usually do on their right from lengthy car rides with the sun. There is some sun blocking coating on automotive glass but not nearly enough to protect you from damage, although you won’t get a burn immediately like being outside. It is kind of deceiving because you don’t feel the damage and assume none is happening at all.
2. There are two kinds of sunblock. The chemical kind (liquid) and physical kind (powder).
3. The liquid (chemical) kind of sunblock doesn’t start working until it is absorbed by your skin. About 20 minutes. So put it on 20 minutes before you go outside.
4. The physical kind (powders) stick to the skin and have facets that reflect the sun’s rays away from your skin. This is the kind of skin spf they recommended for me to use daily rather than an oily lotion.
5. Skin cancer can look like anything but be particularly wary of spots that are bumpy and growing. My spot had a raised texture that differentiated it from my freckles and spots.
6. People catch most of these skin cancer spots themselves, the yearly full body skin check is too quick to notice most things and people being aware of the changes in their skin every day are better observers, yet you have to go in for the skin check to get them removed.
7. After you have skin cancer removed like this the scar will turn discolor permanently (for me that would be a bright white color) if it gets sunburned even once. So daily SPF is just going to be the way I roll from now on. They recommend a SPF 50 in summer and SPF 30 in the winter.
8. It takes about 20-30 years for your skin to show the cancer damage that happens. Most people get the majority of their skin damage as kids and teenagers playing outside. The results show up for the first time in your 30′s-40′s.
9. People are getting skin cancer earlier and earlier now. Most of the people in the Dermatology Institute getting the Mohs procedure were older, over 65. But they did remark that I was the second 35 yr old appointment in a row the day I got the stitches out.