When I was growing up, my freckles were the enemy. Let’s face it, how many girls in their right minds want a face full of brown dots? The indignities were insufferable. There were the mean jokes: Hey, who threw I pile of shit at you through a screen door? BAHAHAHAHAHA! and the well-meaning endearments: Hi there, Freckle Face! Either way, there had to be a solution to the freckle problem and I was on a mission to find it.
I tried everything from the Jan Brady lemon bleach trick to piling on makeup to steering clear of the sun. Nothing worked. Until oh glory day, I discovered salvation. The summer brought on freckles, and it could also bronze my skin, creating a sort of all-over, connect-the-dots effect. If you stood back, those freckles could be confused for what had become the style of the times: a deep, dark tan.
Now to speed up the process. Baby oil! An album cover! Some tin foil! Imagine the sizzle effect! Like every other idiot in the early 80s, and every kid who’s certain she’s invincible, I created a homemade mirror to hold under my chin and fry my skin. I was basically a chicken in the oven, lying there roasting for hours. If I had to blister and then do a little (OK, a lot) of peeling, it was worth it. Danger? Skin cancer? Meh.
It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I noticed a few very dark spots on my body and started having panicky flashbacks to my Shake n’ Bake days. As each spot was removed and deemed safe, I let out a little sigh of thanks, and all that gratitude changed me. Although I still get off on the feel of the sun on my skin, I take grownup precautions. I wear sunscreen, I examine my skin, I get regular mole checks. I’m vigilant, and it’s not just because orange leather faces are out of style or because my freckles now make me feel young, but because I’m scared. I’m scared that one of these days, a mole will turn out to be cancerous and I’ll find it too late.
I’m not a kid anymore and it’s up to me to protect myself from Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. I can’t undo the damage I did in my youth, but I can take care of my skin going forward. How?
In case you didn’t know, Melanoma Monday is the first Monday in May. Its goal is to raise awareness of skin cancer, and to encourage early detection through self exams. By learning how to detect suspicious moles, we can learn the risks of melanoma and how to reduce them. The scary fact is, although 90 per cent of skin cancers are curable if detected early, two out of three Canadians have never had a mole checked by a dermatologist. It’s time to change that.
HOW TO CHECK FOR SKIN CANCER
Of course, the best way to avoid skin cancer is to stay out of the sun. But since for most of us, that’s not gonna happen (here in Canada, we wait wayyyy too long for the sun to come out), we need to take precautions. Like wearing really great sunscreen that’s not greasy and actually works. Like staying out of direct sun from 12 – 4pm, like enjoying the shade now and then, like reapplying every two hours.
Still, you need to check your skin. Here’s a not-so-fun fact: 65 per cent of melanomas appear around a pre-existing mole. That means you have to be aware of and monitor the appearance of new moles and any changes that may occur. What changes should you look for?
Your guid should be the ABCDEs of moles. Each letter corresponds to an aspect of moles you should pay attention to, and if you see changes, go see your doctor STAT.
- A is for asymmetry
- B is for border
- C is for colour
- D is for diameter
- E is for evolution
Skin Cancer Check: Follow these steps
- Use a hand held mirror or ask someone to check your back.
- Start at the top with the scalp, especially if you have thinning hair or baldness.
- Check your neck, ears, and face, looking closely at your eyelids, lips, and corners of the nose.
- Don’t forget to examine your legs, even if they’re tanned. Believe it or not, legs are the number one spot for melanomas among women.
- Check underneath your arms, around genitalia, on the legs, feet, and even between the toes. Just because a spot is not exposed to the sun doesn’t mean it’s in the clear.
- If you’re darker skinned, keep in mind that skin cancer will more likely appear on hands and feet.
In honour of Melanoma Monday, La Roche-Posay is on a mission to get one million people to ‘Become a Skin Checker’. To learn more about skin cancer, visit skinchecker.ca. Oh, and if you’re nearby, go get a free mole check at a La Roche-Posay Skin Checker Event on May 2 in Toronto and May May 12 in Montreal.