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Skin Cancer loves Boaters, unfortunately!
By Terri Parrow Botsford - Published June 11, 2009 - Viewed 1914 times
Because of the above average exposure to the sun, Skin Cancer is an important topic for those of us who spend time on the water. I'd like to share my experience in the hopes that my fellow boaters will take heed and be extra cautious about prevention and early detection.
For the last 20 years, I've used sunscreen every day on my face and almost always worn sunscreen on any part of my body that was going to be exposed to the sun. I've read about and kept a watch out for those brown or black irregular or changing spots on my skin -- knowing they may indicate the onset of skin cancer.
I've been watching and wondering about this funny little pinkish-red spot on my shoulder. Sometimes it was crusty, would scab over and even bleed a little. It wasn't smooth, was irregularly shaped and slightly smaller than a dime. I don't even remember the first time I noticed it. And when I did notice it, its shape was the only part of the description that matched the warning signs for cancer, so I wasn't overly concerned. But after my best friend had a couple of bumps removed, and with some urging from my husband, I finally had it looked at by my Dermatologist. The doctor did a what's called a "punch sample" (cut a small cylinder-shaped area) and sent it away to be biopsied.
A week later she called to tell me it was a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), aka skin cancer. I needed to go back and have it removed. Unfortunately I couldn't get an appointment right away, but the Doctor assured me that world be okay since, BCC is very slow growing, is the most curable and isn't nearly as bad as as Melanoma -- skin cancer's most deadly form. There is a lot on the internet about BCC and It didn't take long to find photos that look exactly like what I had (try this Google search).
Hindsight is 20-20! You'll notice in my opening paragraph, I said I'd been diligent for the last 20 years about using sunscreen. I'm now over 50, so if you do the math, that's several decades I wasn’t so cautious!
Every summer as a teenager we couldn't wait for the first nice day where we could don our bathing suits, slather ourselves with baby oil and get our first sunburn of the season. I remember one time in particular our family went to Waterloo, NY for my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. My uncle had just brought 30+ Viking up from Florida. My sister and I put on our two piece bathing suits (oh to be able to wear a two piece again!), slathered ourselves with baby oil and laid out on the bow. Needless to say I got whopping sunburn, but told myself it's all part of getting the "base" for my spectacular tan.
I am now seeing the results of my carelessness. Even two decades of caution is too late when I spent so many previous summers in baby oil.
I'm very grateful that I only had BCC and not the big M - Melanoma. However, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people who have had non-melanoma skin cancers (Basal and Squamous Cell carcinoma) are twice as likely to develop other types of cancer.
Knowing all this now makes me all the more vigilant about using sunscreen and keeping an eye on odd spots -- no matter what color.
Find out more about Skin Cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention at http://www.skincancer.org.
Terri Parrow Botsford
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