You’re Not Immune to Skin Cancer.

I look thinner with a tan.

I look healthier with a tan. 

I feel ugly and pasty. 

I’m sure most of us have said something along these lines at some point, am I right? I’m also confident that some of us have been more proactive than others in regards to chasing the paleness away.

I tan very easily, but for the past four years or so, I’ve pretty much avoided the sun and become a sunscreen Nazi.

In college, I had a pre-cancerous mole removed on the back of my arm. A mole removal that required two “digs.” (Trust me, it looks much uglier in person.)

Last week, I had a follow-up appointment with my dermatologist, as we’ve been tracking a mole on my back. Surprisingly, the mole on my back had not changed, but two other random freckles had.

A freckle on the side of my right hand:

A freckle on my right shin (and, yes, it’s impossible to shave over stitches):

I know these look harmless, but let me tell you, they hurt like a motherfucker.

I understand that it’s easy to think, So what, Colleen? Get your freckles removed and move on. 

The so what is that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon (source).

Not enough for you? Think of the five people you adore.

Got ‘em?

At least one of them will develop skin cancer. 

I know one. And if I wasn’t diligent about seeing my dermatologist regularly, I could be one of them, too. We’re normal, careful girls. We also have ugly scars all over our bodies.

I’m not here to be a Debby Downer, but I am here to slap you around with some truth. You are not immune to skin cancer. You are NOT SMART if you spend time in a tanning bed or lay out in the sun sans sunscreen. Tanning is not worth it. Please, next time you just need that “glow” first consider having stitches in your arms, back, hands, legs, and face.

I assume this post will get more eye-rolls and dismissive waves than anything else, but if this motivates one person to call their dermatologist to schedule a full-body scan, I’ll feel good.

Be safe, be smart!


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33 Responses to You’re Not Immune to Skin Cancer.

  1. Danielle says:

    Because of your first go-around with it I scheduled an appt and I am going back next week because I need to get some things checked out! LOVE YOU <3 you look beautiful no matter what but I am glad you are okay!

  2. Sigh. I was an avid tanner for 10 years – living in Florida and working in a tanning salon basically required it! I am SO glad I stopped this past summer and have my first cancer screening at a dermatologists office this month!

  3. Jessie says:

    GREAT GREAT POST!! Thank you for sharing this information with us hunnie. It was just what I needed to hear, and I’m sure the same goes with so many others!

  4. No eye rolls here! This is such important information and I’m glad you’re blogging about it!

  5. I love that you’re helping spread the word, but I love EVEN MORE that you’re in the clear. :) Thanks, babydoll. Love you!

  6. I have a strong family history of other forms of cancer, and my cousin was diagnosed with skin cancer when she was close to my age. I’m definitely a little paranoid about any spots on me, but MUCH better safe than sorry. I might also be one of Banana Boat’s biggest supporters — sunscreen me up, baby!! Winter sun is just as bad — sunscreen all bodies!!
    Thankyouthankyouthankyou for bringing this to light, Colleen. I think it’s something that a lot of people take for granted and it can be largely prevented. I’m glad you’re okay. :)

  7. Thanks so much for a GREAT post! I tanned all through high school and college. Even though I haven’t had any effects as of yet, I regret my stupidity so much. It just isn’t worth it. Way to be proactive.

  8. Ashley Crute says:

    Because of you I finally had the mole on my arm checked! Good news nothing but an annoying cyst that I can have removed if it keeps bugging me. Whew.

  9. Elisha says:

    First of all – Glad your ok!
    I had my first screening this past year. I too am a pasty one. And I passed! Cancer scares the hell out of me. And so what If I am pasty see through white, I am who God created and I’ve learned to love myself anyways.

  10. I hope no one roles their eyes at this, those stitches, especially the ones on your hand, look painful! And I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s so important to get your skin checked by a dermatologist and to wear sunscreen every.single.time you’re in the sun!

  11. I just called and made my appointment. I’ve been putting it off because the thought of finding something wrong makes me nervous, but I know it’s better to be safe than sorry! I couldn’t get in until December, but it’ll be nice to get it out of the way before the end of the year :) .

  12. This post brought tears to my eyes. We are definitely NOT immune to cancer and should do everything that we can to avoid it. Two of my best girl friends/cousins at the ages of 22 and 26 were diagnosed with melanoma. They have had several surgeries, one with skin graphs covering her arm. We have always been careful about the sun, but now we are super careful.

    I have a costco sized collection of sun tan lotion in my house, a bottle in my car, a stick in my purse and a regular appointment with a dermatologist!

    I for one, hope pasty-white is the new sexy :)

    • Colleen says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your cousins, but I’m glad to know you’re so careful about protecting your skin! YAY for pasty! :)

  13. Fantastic post! I have very, very fair skin and have had my share of horrible sunburns (accidental, of course). There are a few freckles that my derm is keeping an eye on, but luckily I haven’t had to get anything removed yet!

  14. DragonLady says:

    Yeah, I don’t play with the skin cancer. People make fun of my white legs, but I really don’t care. I’ve had 3 moles removed and tested. All were benign, but neither I nor my drs were willing to take chances. My current doctor gives me the all over body check with my annual physical.

  15. I really need to get my skin checked… I was TERRIBLE with the sun throughout high school and college. Thank goodness I’ve become a lot more conscious about it the past few years. Thank you for the reminder! :)

  16. Lea says:

    Pale is the new tan! Never been tanning and wear my SPF 25 year round.

  17. This post was for me.

    I’ve never been to the dermatologist to check for moles–I’ve only been in the past for teenage acne. That being said, I also had my first gyno appointment this past summer at age 24. Oops!

    Off to schedule my derm appointment–thanks for the reminder!

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  19. This is all too real to me, I have 2 huge ass [pardon my language :P ] gashes 3+ inches long on each thigh from having melanomas removed. NOT fun. I feel your pain [literally and figuratively] girly, not fun :S

  20. Kathleen says:

    Being a ginger, I’ve always been a little wary of developing skin cancer one day. After reading this post, I definitely want to make an appointment to get some interesting moles on my arms checked out! Thanks for being proactive and reminding people to do the same!

  21. Totally and 100% agree with this post! I’ve never been tanning, ever, but I do live in Rhode Island and spend time at the beaches in the summer. With sunscreen of course!

  22. Shannon says:

    I don’t do the tanning bed, only spray ons, but I do have a mole on my back that needs to come off. Thanks for posting this. I am making an appointment today.

  23. I went to see a dermatologist for the first time just a few weeks ago for a whole-body check-up…I was thankful I went–he told me everything looked just fine. BUT, I left really upset actually because the doctor and nurse made me feel so stupid for going in terms of a preventative measure. They said that I shouldn’t waste my time going in unless there’s a freckle that looks “serious.”
    I could talk for days about how ridiculous that was….In spite of their attitudes, I was thankful I went, but wow does our society need to change our mindset about medicine–let’s be preventative rather than just running to the pharmacy when we’re in “serious” situations…

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