Melanoma Monday 2017 – For the Desk Jockeys

Protecting your skin is a recurring theme on this blog. Before my mom’s initial melanoma diagnosis my dumbass was a tanning salon client. That abruptly stopped, and I’ve been slathering on sunscreen ever since.

A sunscreen-related question I used to ask was raised in the comments recently that I think warrants its own post. What better a time than Melanoma Monday? In essence, it was:

If most sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours or so, how does one reconcile reapplication with makeup usage? Do you need to remove your makeup, reapply sunscreen, then reapply makeup? How does that work for people who, you know, work?

Sunscreen for Desk Jockeys

Rejoice! You don’t need to literally reapply every two hours unless perhaps you work next to a window (through which UVA rays can penetrate). For those of you with cubicles or windowless offices, this means you can apply in the morning, commute, work, and not need to reapply for a lunch our or your commute home.

Chemical sunscreens aren’t time-released; they don’t have an expiration timer that starts from when they get massaged into your skin. The two-hour estimate is based on the photostability of the chemical components that protect your skin; subject to sun exposure, they gradually break down and become ineffective.

So, the TWO HOUR sunscreen reapplication guideline is two hours of EXPOSURE, not on a stopwatch.

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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that sun safety and skin cancer awareness are important topics to me. I remind multiple times a year to practice sun safety and to take measures to protect your skin, but I take advantage of may being Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness month to ascend my soapbox. It’s a little deranged, really, to name today Melanoma Monday – but so it is.

Month before last, my father had to have yet another area removed. Squamous Cell Carcinoma. That’s at least his second procedure. That’s not even getting into about what my mother has gone through.

I was an idiot and used to tan in tanning beds.

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Skin Cancer Awareness Month – Week 4

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month.

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

– – -This went up late because I was running around like a(n SPF-wearing) decapitated chicken yesterday preparing for our cookout. I hope, if you’re in the US and had the luxury of a day off, that you had a relaxing day. I ALSO hope that if you spent time outside, you covered up (either with clothing or shade) and wore sunscreen.

One thing you can do that would make you an awesome host of any barbecues or outdoor festivities would be to provide sunscreen for your guests. Get one of the huge cans of the spray variety stuff and offer it up (or, you know, gently badger your friends to use it).

Did you know…

That you should reapply sunscreen every two hours? More often if you’ve been exposed to water or if you’ve been excessively sweating (so, swimming, doing yard work, outdoor exercise). If you’re going to be outside in the sun, it may be a good idea to wear minimal makeup so you can reapply sunscreen without issue. Otherwise, get thee a wide-brim hat.

Did you know…

EVERYONE should practice sun safety. Contrary to popular belief, people of color can indeed burn! Sunscreen and protection is not just for pasty people. Be smart, protect your skin.

Also, on that same note – people of color can and do get skin cancer, too. What’s worse is that it is often detected at a later stage in people of color…so while the incidence itself isn’t as high, the fatality of it is higher, percentage-wise. According to SkinCancer.org, “According to recent studies, the five-year survival rate for African Americans with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is 59 percent compared to 85 percent in Caucasians.” That’s scary!

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Skin Cancer Awareness Month – Week 3 – Risks

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month. Each Monday of this month will feature a post pertaining to sun safety and skin cancer awareness and prevention.

Week 1 – Mom’s Story
Week 2 – Sunless Tanning Myths

– – –

There’s a lot of information out there about skin cancer but despite how common it is we don’t experience the, “Pinkwashing,” phenomena. While I’m glad we don’t see overt capitalization and bullshit faux-charities in abundance, we do need people to be more aware of and in touch with their own bodies so they can get treatment before is too late. Here’s some of what you should know.

Types

There are several types, but I’m going to discuss the most common three.

Melanoma

Starting in the body’s pigment cells (what gives our skin our color…and tan!) – happening on any skin surface, it is less common with people who naturally have darker skin – but it can happen. Melanoma is the most fatal; not only is it most likely to metastasize  (move to other parts of the body)- there’s rarely any pain or discomfort, and by the time you’re noticeably sick, it’s often too late.

My mom was received a Stage 0 diagnosis aka melanoma in situ and was treated, but is still needing to go back for atypical cell biopsies and removal.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (Skin Cancer)

This skin cancer most commonly occurs on areas that are frequently exposed to the sun (face, hands). This affects people with fair skin most frequently. It rarely metastasizes.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common form of skin cancer for those with dark skin. It does affect those with fair skin, however, typically in areas with more frequent sun exposure. It sometimes metastasizes.

Risks

Overall

Sun & Tanning Beds

Had one really nasty, blistering sunburn? You have a higher risk. Sunburns during adulthood carry more, “weight,” in terms of your risk than ones sustained during childhood.

Your total lifetime exposure translates to greater risk – someone who vacations in the Caribbean and has an office job is at less risk than, say, a beach lifeguard or construction worker who is in the sun all the damn time.

Tanning in the sun. We’ve talked about this already. Even though it feels and looks nice for now, you’re putting yourself at risk.

Just because it isn’t outdoors in the sun doesn’t mean it is safe. Tanning beds still emit UV rays, which put you at risk. Due to the direct exposure, the risk of melanoma in people who have used tanning beds before age 30 – so yes, that means, me, too – increases 75%. Squamous Cell is increased by 2.5 times, and Basal Cell by 1.5. Is it worth it? No.

Medical History

Unlike something so minor as chickenpox, if you’ve had skin cancer or melanoma before, you have a greater risk of developing it again. Its important to remain vigilant about your skin! On top of that, if you have a family history of skin cancer (melanoma or otherwise), you may be more likely to develop it. So far, my mom has had a diagnosis, and my dad is due for biopsies. We’ll see how (much more) concerned I need to be.

Traits

Pale/fair (esp. with pink undertones)? Green, grey, or blue eyes? Blonde or red hair? Super freckly? I have bad news. As for me – I’m lighter, but not fair, my eyes are blue-green. My hair isn’t blonde, and I’m not freckled.

Meds

Things like Retin-A or topicals containing AHAs can make you more susceptible to sunburn and, therefore, skin cancer. You should ask your doctor and/or pharmacist if your meds have this side effect – even common things like antibiotics, antidepressants, and contraceptives can affect your sensitivity to the sun.

Melanoma Specific

Moles

Atypical ones that are oddly shaped, colored, larger than normal – are more likely to lead to melanoma. Having these doesn’t mean you DO have it, but it is good to have a dermatologist check them out.

Having 50+ total increases your risk, even if they’re common or small. This can include things you consider freckles, so again – talk to a doc and get their input. Better safe than sorry.

Basal and Squamous

Old scars, burns, and ulcers can be more likely to develop these carcinomas.

If you handle arsenic as part of your job (because that is part of, I imagine, no one’s hobbies) limit it as much as possible and ALWAYS use proper handling procedures/equipment/what have you. If you are handling it for work and your employer is not making necessary safety measures available, report them to OSHA. Seriously, stuff is not a joke, and your health is not worth their laziness.

Radiation (for…yeah, likely other cancer. Because it didn’t suck enough the first time? Scumbag cancer..) can also make you more susceptible to these varieties.

Squamous Specific

Some strains of HPV may meddle with your skin and lead to developing squamous cell skin cancer. The Gardasil vaccine won’t prevent these strains, and they are not related to any STI-type strains.

If you have odd, dark scaly growths or patches, you may have actinic keratosis, which is also linked to squamous cell skin cancer. Treating this condition when it is identified usually removes the risk, but ignoring it and allowing it to progress increases the likelihood of transitioning to a cancerous state.

What Else?

Melanoma and other skin cancers do not affect only the surface of our skin. They can affect our nail beds, and worse, our eyes.

I won’t post any scary photos, but they’re out there – and BuzzFeed recently shared this article discussing one 27-year-old’s experience. There’s a photo of her face’s reaction to her specific treatment, it’s rough.

I won’t tell you to go outside wrapped in a thick, opaque sheet year ’round, but it is important to be aware of the factors that increase your risk so you can take action and make healthier choices. Sunscreen, always, even if you hate it, especially on your hands (reapply after washing your hands). Hats are good. Sunglasses are good. Listen to your body – if you notice, during an outdoor stint, your skin feeling taut or irritated, you’re probably burning. Get inside. Pay attention to your skin and report changes to your doctor.

Melanoma Awareness Week 2 – Sunless Tanning

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month. Each Monday of this month will feature a post pertaining to sun safety and skin cancer awareness and prevention.

Week 1

I used to tan. I loved to tan! Like many people, I think I look a little better with a little color. I don’t seek to resemble a cognac leather handbag, obviously, but whereas I’m naturally roughly NC15 in MAC, I prefer to be around NC25, at least in the fair-weather months (I don’t bother in late Autumn and Winter).

Unfortunately, though, while tanning in the sun’s glorious rays or worse, in a tanning bed, might produce nice short-term results, the long-term consequences do not make it worth it. The attitude of, “We’ll deal with that when we reach it,” is not a healthy one. I’ve heard some people say, “Well I want to stop, but…” and then append some myth they heard or some excuse they have about why they’re just going to keep baking in the rays.

Let’s dispel three of those.

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