Why Melanoma?

My Melanoma Story

At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with a melanoma. Several years later, I had a second one.  Receiving the first melanoma diagnosis was an eye-opener. The second was petrifying. 

Both melanomas were considered relatively thin and were removed through surgical excision.  I have deep and long scars on my thigh and my back, but thankfully, I did not require additional treatment. 

As I educated myself, I learned how many of the risk factors I possess (family history, fair skin, severe sunburns as a child, etc.) and the danger the disease represents.  I began to notice the prevalence of the disease when melanoma directly affected many friends and friends of my family.  My father was subsequently treated for a melanoma that I detected.

How Melanoma Has Changed My Life

I have changed my daily habits and become vigilant about sun protection.  I never sit in the direct sunlight when I can help it; I walk on the shady side of the street.  Instead of seeing the sun as a source of warmth and light, it represents danger to me.

But still, I am an endurance athlete.  I run, ride, and swim long distances and I do not want to sacrifice these interests.  No matter how early in the morning I start, I often find myself training during the sun’s peak exposure. Clearly, with my history of melanoma, this is risky business.  I take every precaution I can and remain vigilant about sun protection.

Some Facts About Skin Cancer (from The Skin Cancer Foundation, New York, NY)

    More than 1.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.

    One in five Americans and one in three Caucasians will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

    Nationally, there are more new cases of skin cancer each year than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon.

    More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, yet fewer than 33 percent of adults, adolescents, and children routinely use sun protection.

    The incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is rising faster than that of any other cancer. There are now nearly 8,000 melanoma deaths every year.

    One person dies every hour from skin cancer, primarily melanoma.

    By 2010, melanoma is projected to rise to one in 50 Americans.

    While melanoma is uncommon in African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians, it is most deadly for these populations.

    The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men older than age 50.

    Skin cancer is the No. 1 cancer in men 50 and older, ahead of prostate, lung and colon cancer.

    Middle-aged and older men have the poorest track record for performing monthly skin self exams or regularly visiting a dermatologist. They are the least likely individuals to detect melanoma in its early stages.

    Men over age 40 spend the most time outdoors and have the highest annual exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

    In the past 30 years, skin cancer has tripled in women younger than 40.

    Melanoma is the second most common cancer in women aged 20-29.

    One blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.

    Regular sun protection throughout childhood can reduce the risk of skin cancer by 80 percent.

    It is estimated that 2.3 million teens visit a tanning salon at least once a year.

    In the past 20 years there has been more than a 100 percent increase in the cases of pediatric melanoma.

    Less than half of all teenagers use sunscreen.

    The effects of photoaging (skin aging caused by the sun or tanning machines) can be seen as early as in one’s 20s.

    Sun Protection in Africa

    Protecting myself from sun exposure will require vigilance and persistence while participating on the TDA.  Here are a few products that will be key to my sun protection:

    Sunscreen: I will be using SOLBAR Cream SPF 50 and SOLBAR Zinc 38. Person and Covey, the manufacturer of these products, generously donated enough sunscreen to keep me covered for my entire journey.

    Arm Coolers and Skin Cooler Helmet Beanie: I will be wearing arm coolers and a head beanie underneath my helmet. Both of these products by De Soto Sport are designed to protect against sun and heat.

    If you have recommendations for other sun safety products, or tips to avoid the sun, please submit comments below.

Responses

  1. Hey Dana!
    Suggestion for sunscreen, Blue Lizard. It was recommended by this sun protection clothing store at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. I used it when I did my run across the Sahara and it worked GREAT! They even sent me free product when I emailed them and told them what I was doing, they may send you some as well, although not sure if they’ll send 4 months worth! The URL is: http://www.crownlaboratories.com/bluelizard/

    Good luck!!

    Hugs,
    joey

  2. Hi Dana –

    I’m on the board at JMNMF and when Greg told us about your ride at this weeks board meeting, I was blown away! I’m a survivor, too…also with a family history of melanoma. I’ve posted links to your blog on my FB page, on one of the Melanoma groups there and will be adding you to my bloglist shortly. You are awesome!! Thanks for including JMNMF in your ride.

    – Jane


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