Saturday, February 23, 2013
MELANOMA IS REALLY, REALLY SCARY AND SUNSCREENS
Welcome back to SAVING FACE, a blog for the mature woman who refuses to be bullied by the indignities of aging and celebrates all of its blessings!
MELANOMA IS REALLY, REALLY SCARY
(Warning.....Geena, you can stop reading now.)
THE LIFE STORY OF MY SKIN:
Chapter 1: Birth to age 56
La, la, la, la, la, la.....Smooth baby skin, sunburned child, suntanning teen, suntanning young adult, too busy to care,....start wearing sunscreen all the time....approaching peri-menopause, vanity driven skin concerns, wrinkles and Retin-A, la, la, la, la, la, la.....no worries about the "bad stuff".
Chapter 2: Age 56
Routine visit to the dermatologist....hadn't gone for a few years....no specific concerns....
Doctor finds a small, as in teensy, darker, flat mole, on the interior of my right ankle....She thought it was odd hanging out there all by itself....She did a biopsy.
You know where this is going....Doctor's assistant calls, very casual, no big deal, melanoma in situ.....Here's a plastic surgeon's number.....Call him.
Casual stopped at the plastic surgeon's office.
SURGEON TOTALLY INVESTED IN SCARING THE SNOT OUT OF ME!!
He assured me that my dermatologist had probably saved my life and I should send her flowers!...Melanoma is extremely deadly in it's advanced stages.....YES....MELANOMA CAN KILL YOU!!!
Surgeon referred me to an oncologist...(So absolutely overkill for a melanoma in situ.) Though she was probably wondering what the heck I was doing there, she did her bit to join the scare game. She reassured me that a Stage 0 melanoma is 99 to 100 percent curable by surgery.....BUT...she also pointed out that my body likes to make cancer....20% chance I would get another cancer.
More fun....The cure for early stage melanoma is to cut it out with generous margins. The melanoma was located on one of the few parts of my body that didn't have excess skin to close up the wound. Yup, have to have a skin graft, full skin thickness.
Cut big chunk of skin from my groin.
Cut half dollar size circle of skin from around the biopsy site.
Sew groin skin on ankle. Attendant irrational fear that the groin graft skin would grow pubic hairs on my ankle and I would end up looking like a freaking hobbit!
Three hour surgery.
Almost fainted when dressing removed a few days after surgery....and saw a nasty gauze bundle SEWED ON TO MY ANKLE over the graft. Christened it the Blood Monkey.
I was told three days off work for recovery...Hah! More like ten days!
Oh, and did I mention the permanent nerve damage below the graft site....and the incredibly nasty looking wound that took a long, long time to heal,....and the end of my career as an ankle model...and the pain?
So what is the point of this story?
1) I was extremely lucky to have my melanoma caught early, and even so it was very traumatizing.
2) What I went through is NOTHING compared to what you might go through if a more advanced melanoma had been found.
3) I WANT TO SCARE THE SNOT OUT OF YOU TOO!
I have gathered the following information from two sites: Melanoma Research Foundation, at www.melanoma.org, and The Skin Cancer Foundation,, at http://www.skincancer.org
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States....Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
Actinic keratosis is the most common pre cancer, it effects more than 58 million Americans.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer....
Squamous cell is the second most common form of skin cancer.
Melanoma accounts for less than five percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
ONE PERSON DIES OF MELANOMA EVERY HOUR.
About 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
About 90 percent of non melanoma cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
It takes only ONE blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double a person's chance of developing melanoma later in life.
Melanoma can develop anywhere in the body, including eyes, scalp, hands and feet.
THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT SKIN CANCER IS TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM THE SUN:
- Seek shade.
- Cover up with clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. Reapply every two hours, even if it's cloudy, and after swimming or sweating.
- Examine you skin often and take note of any changing or new moles.
Additionally The Skin Cancer Foundation states: MORE THAN 90 PERCENT OF THE VISIBLE CHANGES COMMONLY ATTRIBUTED TO SKIN AGING ARE CAUSED BY THE SUN.
So this is a NO BRAINER....Protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure can not only help you avoid DISFIGURING LESIONS and SAVE YOUR LIFE, but may also help you avoid wrinkles and age spots....Yes, I'm appealing to your vanity, if fear of Death and Disfigurement isn't sufficient motivation.
Please don't bombard me with protests regarding the need for getting Vitamin D from the sun...Talk to your doctor about what constitutes a safe exposure, if that's possible, to the sun....and consider asking your doctor about Vitamin D supplements.
EARLY DETECTION OF SKIN CANCER SAVES LIVES. Go to your dermatologist at least once a year for a full body check. Examine your skin at least once a month....Use a hand held mirror to see the tricky parts. Don't put this off.
MY FAVORITE SUNTAN LOTIONS REVIEWS
I strongly recommend you check out the Environmental Working Group web site, at www.ewg.org/, to research not only your suntan lotion products, but cosmetics as well. EWG will assign an ingredient hazard score, from 1-10 which reflects known and suspected hazards of the product's ingredients. A score of 0 to 2 is low hazard, a score of 3 to 6 is moderate hazard and a score of 7 to 10 represents high hazard.
Okay... I don't always buy products with the lowest scores....but at least I can be well informed before I expose my skin to all kinds of goofy toxic nastiness.
I like to use La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, SPF 50, tinted, on my face, even though it has a EWG score of 3. I really like how light weight it is and how it doesn't leave any whitish film. It's in a really cool bottle. You can buy it with or without a light skin colored tint. I was initially introduced to this product by one of my dermatologists. ( I'm a dermatologist whore...I shop around.) You can buy this at Walgreens for $33.50 or at your dermatologist office. You can also buy it on Amazon, for $25.34 for a 1.7 fluid ounce bottle. Still hideously expensive. It lasts a long time. A little goes a long way.
La Roche-Posay also makes Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream, SPF 40, which has a EWG score of 2, and is highly rated. This sells for $26.03 on Amazon for a 1.7 ounce bottle.
I have also used La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX Daily Moisturizing Cream, SPF 15. EWG score of 3. This has a lower SPF and like all the La Roche-Posay products it spreads easily and absorbs well, but I probably wouldn't wear it for more than dashing in and out of buildings since I try to keep my SPF over 30.
Since I can't afford to keep my whole body protected with La Roche-Posay products, I use Coppertone Water Babies, Pure and Simple, SPF 50 lotion on my body, and on my face when I'm planning a day-o-sun. I find I do need to rub it in well, and it can leave a whitish sheen, but less than many other products I've tried. It has an EWG score of 2. You can buy this on Amazon for $13.79 for an 8 ounce bottle. You should also be able to find this at most drugstores, Walgreens offers this online for $10.99.
I wear sunscreen everyday, sun or shade, and for 59 years old, I think my skin has very few "age spots".
Which sunscreens are your favorites?
NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
Being diagnosed with melanoma can make one a wee tad obsessive about checking one's skin.
Any dermatologist worth their salt will teach you about the ABCDE rule to evaluate your skin for changes. (WebMD)
A is for asymmetry. One half of the mole or skin growth doesn't match the other half.
B is for border irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for color. The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present.....Changes in color distribution, especially the spread of color from the edge of a mole to the surrounding skin, are also an early sign of melanoma.
D is for diameter. The mole or skin growth is larger than 6 mm or about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
E is for evolution. This is change in size, shape, symptoms, such as itching or tenderness, surface (especially bleeding) or color of a mole.
So after I was diagnosed, I found it very challenging to monitor changes in my moles....I couldn't rely on memory....I can barely remember what I ate for lunch. My husband and I would take photographs of moles I was worried about, but without a measurement reference it was difficult to establish from month to month if change had occurred. We tried balancing a ruler next to the mole we were photographing, which presented it's own set of problems. The ruler would slip and depending on where the mole was located on my body, it was sometimes impossible for me to assist in holding it. The ruler also only measured one aspect of the moles size.
So....I invented a design for an adhesive sticker, with a center cut out, and millimeter markings on all four sides. After some hits and misses, I found an American printing company, Innovative Adhesives, with experience in producing skin safe stickers and had them create a small first prototype run of stickers. The stickers are printed on 3M hypoallergenic medical tape and are easily removable. They can be placed over the mole, with the mole showing in the center cut out, photographed and the photographs then saved to document changes for the doctor or self monitoring.
I am no where near ready to start manufacturing these stickers, they are actually extraordinarily expensive to produce, and need some refinements. I may never launch them. I would however really like to get some feedback from other skin obsessed readers about how easy, or not, they are to use.....It has been hard finding testers....Most folks don't appreciate the "Hey....interested in some mole tracking sticker testing fun?" approach.
So if you are interested in trying a couple of these out, for FREE, I will send you a couple in exchange for some feedback. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your address and I will get them out to you lickity split. (until I run out)
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A special thanks to all of you who have read my blog....It has been especially fun seeing the blog get hits from all over the world. Ten countries to date. I can now say, with a semi straight face, when my husband asks for help, that I'm slightly too busy, seeing as I'm now an INTERNATIONAL BLOGGER!
I have no medical training what so ever. Zilch. Zero. Nada. I'm not even CPR certified.
My opinions, and those of other contributors, are just that, opinions.
Most of my opinions are formed as a result of my personal experiences and rigorous scientific investigation such as polling my buddies at lunch or Happy Hour.
I am not the shill of any product manufacturer.
If after you read a review on this blog you feel tempted to spend your hard earned money on a recommended procedure or product, check it out first with your medical provider or aesthetician. Do your own research. Use common sense.