Oh those sunny, summer days! There’s nothing like feeling the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face, while enjoying a leisurely read by the pool side, kayaking peacefully down the river, or engaging with some other outdoor activity.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved being outside in the sun. Who knew back then, that basking under the sun’s rays until you were as red as lobster was bad for your skin, and potentially life threatening?
Over the years, as the topic of sun exposure and skin cancer grew, I changed my behaviors to incorporate products that would protect my skin from harmful rays. There were no reported incidents of skin cancer in the family, but having sensitive and fair skin- this seemed a prudent step to take.
A few years ago a few small, round patches of dry skin appeared on my back. I went straight to the dermatologist; not because I was worried, because I didn’t like the way they looked.
My doctor told me the dry, brown patches were made up of cells called Seborrheic Keratosis. These are noncancerous.
I also had a few small, red irritations on my chest. He informed me these cells were Actinic Keratosis. They are precancerous.
Actinic cells can develop on parts of the body after exposure to the sun. He also informed me, that most likely I could thank my mother for these cells – as they are genetic.
The doctor removed the small growths with liquid nitrogen. I scheduled a six month follow up, and didn’t think more about it.
When my mother ended up in the hospital this past year, we were surprised to learn she had a tumorous growth called S.C.C. – Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
We also discovered a number of other keratosis growths on her chest and neck.
As my doctor predicted, I had the same pattern of cells as my mother.
Although, S.C.C is not what ultimately took Mom’s life, it was disturbing to discover that many people, like my Mom, don’t realize how easy it is to have these growths treated.
As long as I can remember, morning and night my mother routinely washed her face, and gently patted her skin dry. She would then apply her favorite lotions to her face, neck and body. For the most part, she had beautiful creamy skin. There were no spider veins on her legs, and her skin was silky smooth – even in her elder years. One would have thought she led a stress free life.
These cells, these growths were not a result of poor hygiene. They were a predisposed condition, which the sun was all too happy to reveal. These days I wear UV swim suits , apply sun block with a heavy dose of zinc oxide,and see my dermatologist every six months.
Summer rays are still a welcomed warmth, but only with layers of protection between me and Mr. Sun.