One of things a young lady with melanoma says in the “Dear 16-Year old Me” video is that your skin is like an elephant – it remembers the damage you do to it. She is so right, but young people still don’t seem to get it. I don’t blame them, for most of my life, I didn’t get it either.
As I scroll through Twitter and search the word “melanoma”, I see the latest news in the world of the most deadly skin cancer and I also read things that make my stomach turn. Young girls Tweet stuff like this all the time: “The last thing I want to do right now is write a paper on Malignant Melanoma… REALLY?! #Ilovetotan” and “It’s people getting ugly season..I refuse to participate #GTL” or “Think 9 mins on the beds today was a little to much but it will be worth it !! #tantastic” Note the hash tags: #Ilovetotan, #tantastic, #GTL (GTL = Gym, tan, laundry.. which comes from the stupid people on Jersey Shore). Men are just as guilty. Today I saw a self proclaimed “Tanorexic” from England announce that he has melanoma on Twitter. He even went to the dermatologist appointment “lobster red”. Do they not know that Melanoma is the most common cancer found in people aged 25 to 29 and the second-most-common cancer in people aged 15 to 29 years old?
No wonder the rates for melanoma are going up in this segment of the population. It is all about vanity. They want to look good now and aren’t concerned with the future. What they don’t understand: If you damage your skin now, you will pay for it down the road. Not just with wrinkles, but with a deadly, devastating disease. It might not happen right away, but it could be 5 years, or perhaps 10 or 20 years down the road. The reality is we just don’t know – so why risk it?
Last month California passed the first ever ban on sunbed use for those under 18. It is a huge victory and I was one of the people who sent our governor a letter in support of passing this new law. It makes sense to me. You wouldn’t give your kid a pack of cigarettes, so why would you let them go to a sunbed? In the past we didn’t look at the sun as a carcinogen, but now if you go into a tanning bed or purposely burn your skin, you must understand the consequences. It will affect your cells. It will mutate your genes. If you are unlucky enough to have a cancer gene in your genetic makeup, perhaps passed down from your ancestors, then you are at an even higher risk. Maybe it would only take 2 bad sunburns to mutate your genetic code to the point that melanoma grows uncontrolled. You just don’t know what lies inside you, so why not try and prevent those mutations and stay out of the sunbeds?
If you say to yourself “It wont happen to me, I don’t have fair skin, I am too young for cancer”. You are wrong. It can happen to anyone, at any age. Some examples are below.
- Diagnosed at 24 years old, Stage 3 survivor – http://adventurewithmelanoma.blogspot.com/2011/10/now.html
- Diagnosed at 22 years old, Stage 4 survivor – http://meredithlegg.blogspot.com/ – she is in the Dear 16 Year Old Me Video
- Diagnosed at 24 years old – deceased – http://rehabelburi.blogspot.com/ – Rehab El Buri, a young muslim woman, was diagnosed at age 24 with Stage 4 melanoma. What haunts me is that she never got the results from a mole on her neck that a doctor removed because it looked suspicious, 3 years prior. She died in March 2011. Her blog ends in 2009, but it is a haunting yet beautiful account (she was a journalist) of how she faced death at such a young age. Her obituary: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/remembering-rehab-el-buri-abc-news-investigative-team/story?id=13076627
PLEASE REMEMBER: YOUR SKIN REMEMBERS