It’s August and you probably have a suntan by now. Most of us get a little ”color” during the summer months, but few think of the consequences.
“I just didn’t do anything to prevent bad sunburns when I was a teen,” Angel Champion said.
Years of “laying out” and using tanning beds caught up with Champion when she was 29. She developed a spot, the size of a pencil eraser that just never went away. She got a biopsy and found she had basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. She is one of the 5.4 million Americans who are diagnosed with skin cancer each year.
“It scared me. I had to have the spot cut out,” Champion said. “And now I have scars all over my body from skin cancer—my face, nose, arms, legs, chest and back.”
A mole on Dan Trawicki’s shoulder didn’t look like much; it had been there a long time.
“I got sunburn a lot when I was a kid, didn’t think anything of it,” Trawicki said.
It nagged at him until he had it checked out. It was stage 3 malignant melanoma that had spread to his lymph glands.
A recent Blue Cross and Blue Shield Health of America report showed a nationwide increase in melanoma in the last four years. Women are being diagnosed at a younger age—54—and rates in men double between the ages of 55 and 64.
“I was given the chance to be part of a clinical trial, just three of us in the state of Nebraska,” Trawicki said. “It was intense chemotherapy. The nurses wore bio-hazard suits.”
Despite many complications, Trawicki made it through by concentrating on his 5-year-old daughter and his music.
“My doctor gave me a slip of paper at the start, which gave me the odds on whether I’d survive cancer,” said Trawicki. “It was less than 40 percent for five years, and 20 percent for 10 years.”
He’s beaten the odds and has been cancer-free for 14 and a half years.
Champion too is a survivor. She avoids the sun and offers this advice to would-be sun worshippers: “Make the choice to be pale. At least you have a choice, then.”
With lots of sun left in the summer, Dr. Debra Esser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s chief medical officer, has this advice: “Children should be taught to limit their exposure to the sun. Sunburns add up over time. A suntan is not healthy; in reality, it causes skin cancer.”