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Lessons from my dad and uncle: Why you should protect your skin

By Amanda Wallach | May 13, 2022

Amanda (right of center) with her family.

This year, nearly 100,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma1. For my uncle and dad, that number is personal, as both were diagnosed with melanoma (a disease that is more common in men than women). Now, I’m doing my best to make sure that I never have to hear that diagnosis.

When my dad and his siblings were growing up, they spent their summers competing on swim teams and working as lifeguards. They were outside every day, but sun safety generally wasn’t their top priority. Fast forward to 2005, and my grandmother noticed a suspicious spot on my uncle and encouraged him to have it checked out. After seeing his doctor, he learned it was melanoma. Thanks to the incredible work of his doctors, all the cancer was removed even though it had already begun to spread.

After this experience, my family became much more vigilant about their yearly dermatology checks, including my dad. This paid off when his doctor found melanoma during an annual visit in 2014 and again in 2017. He was able to have both spots removed without issue thanks to early detection.

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S., but it’s also the most preventable. Since my family’s cancer diagnoses, we all make sure to take the proper steps to protect ourselves when outside in the sun. We apply sunscreen, stay out of the sun whenever possible (keeping covered when we are exposed), keep an eye on our own skin for any suspicious markings (make sure you know what you’re looking for by reading up on the ABCDEs of skin cancer) and see our dermatologists each year.

According to a recent survey from the Prevent Cancer Foundation, 50% of Americans who had a scheduled in-person medical appointment missed, postponed and/or cancelled one or more of these appointments. If you missed your yearly skin check during the pandemic, it’s time to get it Back on the Books. Early detection is so important when it comes to a cancer diagnosis, and it is the reason why my uncle and dad are here and healthy today.

Endnotes

  1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2022.

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