It’s almost summer! That means sun’s out, buns out, right? Maybe not. Did you know skin cancer is caused by UV light that comes from the sun and tanning beds? And that there are more than 200,000 cases of melanoma per year? If not, keep reading—it might just save a life.
Skin Cancer & Melanoma Awareness Month
May 1st is Melanoma Monday, and the entire month of May is dedicated to melanoma awareness. I attended a patient symposium at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital on May 1st, hosted by the Melanoma Research Foundation, with my mother, who has stage 4 melanoma. She’s in her fifth year of battling metastatic cancer and has undergone several surgeries and treatments, including radiation and immunotherapy. The patient symposium was a great resource for information and allowed us to hear other patients share their stories with skin cancer. Some of them were younger than my mother, some of them were older, but all of them battled fiercely and trusted their doctors. I was honored to be among them and cancer specialists as they discussed current and future treatment options.
Wear Sunscreen & #GetNaked to Prevent Skin Cancer
So, how do you avoid getting melanoma? The MRF’s #GetNaked campaign urges everyone to see a dermatologist to check out their moles for the possibility of skin cancer. Even if you no longer hang out in the sun or use a tanning bed, it’s still important to talk with your doctor about any changes in the size or shape of your moles. This is because excessive exposure to the sun can cause melanoma, and it can affect anyone at any age, any time. Additional factors include indoor tanning, family history, a large amount of freckles or moles, fair skin, and others. Experts suggest wearing sunscreen, reducing your time in the sun, avoid tanning beds, wearing protective clothing (such as hats and sunglasses), and familiarize yourself with moles, freckles, birth marks, and bumps.
Back when my parents were growing up, sunscreen was an optional way to avoid a painful or irritating sunburn. In fact, they used tanning oil or low SPF lotion to get that golden skin everyone was raving about. Now, however, it’s come back to haunt a lot of people. I was a beach baby. Literally. Somewhere in the family photo albums is a picture of me as a pale, chubby little baby with a hat on at the beach, playing in the sand. I was always outside as a kid, whether riding my bike, swimming, or running amuck with my friends in the neighborhood. That was during a time when sunscreen was pushed a bit more heavily (but mostly for marketing so companies could make more money). Recently, the importance of sunscreen and the dangers of tanning beds has come to light–at the unfortunate cost of many lives lost to melanoma and other skin cancers.
How You Can Help
If you’d like to help fund research for treatments, spread awareness, and show your support to survivors and their loved ones, there are plenty of ways to help all throughout May:
- Join the MRF on Instagram for live discussions with dermatologists and other experts to discuss sun safety.
- Donate to organizations like the MRF or participate in events like Miles for Melanoma.
- Use the filter on TikTok and Instagram developed by the MRF and F Cancer.
- Buy Neutrogena™ specially marked sunscreen from Walgreens ($1 from each purchase goes to the MRF).
- Use the Skin Cancer Awareness Month Toolkit on social media to #SharetheFacts.
- Make an appointment to see your dermatologist!
- Talk to your friends and family about sun safety.
- Shop the Moms Over Melanoma collection to fund research for treatments*.
- Learn more about the causes and signs of skin cancer.
*I created the Moms Over Melanoma collection of designs after my mother was diagnosed and donate the profits of these products to organizations like the MRF. For the month of May, all products in this collection are 10% off with the coupon code MAY at checkout.
Spread awareness of this preventable disease and help find a cure this month. Look up “melanoma” and “skin cancer” in your preferred search browser or on social media to find more information and ways to help.