18 June, 2012

The Big "C" - It's Not If, But When


It's summertime. We are having 90-degree days, and a lot of sun. I may not be at the beach anymore, but I still get outside, and with the hot temps I won't be wearing long-sleeves! You know what this much sun means: Skin Cancer alerts.

Now, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Big C has me in its sights. And yes, Skin Cancer, specifically. It's kind of comforting to know something with such certainty, in a world where nothing seems sure.

 
THIS is an absolute! (cue Hallelujah Chorus)


 
How can I, who have never professed any powers of foresight, foresee this?
Dude, I have Every. Single. Risk factor.
Every one.
I know. That's pretty awe-inspiring, right? You may envy me, if you wish.

 
Biologically:
  1. Fair skin, fair hair, fair eyes? Check.
  2. Direct descendent of skin cancer survivor? Check. My grandfather on my mother's side.
  3. Even more direct line: My mom has had 5 spots removed already. One (or two?) of which were actual trouble. ...I guess the others just looked like trouble. Guilt by association!
  4. High quantity of moles/freckles? Dude, I used to play connect the dots with the moles on my stomach or legs. My last doctor did a map of my back. Check.

 
But Red, you say, didn't your parents slather you in sunblock knowing this risk?

Well first, that's cute that you think I'm young enough that all the modern info about skin cancer was available when I was little. Secondly, yes, to the extent they could control it, I was always told to wear sunblock. But thirdly, I went away to boarding school at the tender age of 11. Apart from telling me, how much control do you think they had?

 
Genetically, it's out of my control.

 
Environmentally... well let's just do a quick tally of enviornmental risks. They usually count these as risk factors if they happened before age 20 or 25 (CDC can't make up its mind which age counts.)

 
  1. Live in tropics? Check. Look up Sri Lanka on a globe. I was about 10* N latitude. Even my school in India and our later home in Taiwan qualify.
  2. Live at high altitudes? Check. Most of that time in South Asia was at high altitudes 6,000 ft. or higher, which put me closer to less-filtered UV rays.
  3. Number of sunburns? Huge. At least one major, peeling, lobster-red burn every year. At least. I think that's a big "Check!"
  4. Number of blistering sunburns? Also high. One that qualified as 2nd degree. Youch. Check.
  5. Use of tanning beds? Check. I will admit, with some chagrin, that I started using the tanning beds at my gym last summer. (just a couple hits per month) I don't think I will continue - well, even if my new gym has them, whenever I sign up at a new gym.

The funny (if that's the word I want) - the funny thing is, my sister had breast cancer a few years ago. I'm not at all worried about that. I mean, yes, I do all the check-ups and mammograms, and have since before the usual age they start that, but I don't think I'm a likely candidate.

We have NO family history of that.
Hestia lives a generally less healthy lifestyle than I do. (A lot of processed/fast foods. A lot of soda. Very little exercise. An overall chaotic/stressed out take on life.)

In the meantime, I will try to stay out of the sun during peak hours, and will wear sunblock if I know I'll be out in it. (Regardless of all the changes to sunblock labels. Oy vey, really?)

What do you think? Do you need or not need sunblock? Are you one of those blessed with the ability to tan? Or will I be seeing you at the dermatologist/oncologist?

And...on this day in history:
Napoleon met his Waterloo! ...and we gained a new phrase. So let's all drink something French.

p.s. To those of you who followed this weekend's events on Twitter and were expecting a different post, it's coming, but this was on deck. ...and next up is the 100th Post. Bear with me!

28 comments:

  1. When I was a kid I got those blistering sunburns all the time. I seemed like my skin was always falling off. Now I tan decently, but don't find myself in the sun all that often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always peeled, and sometimes blistered.

      Maybe the fact that we're in the sun more in youth has to do with the fact that the risk factors count depending on how much they happened in youth. Hm.

      Delete
  2. I know I should be concerned about skin cancer, but I read this book on the benefits of the sun, and I just can't stay indoors when it's shinning brightly. We are good friends. Haven't you heard of those people that stare at the sun, and claim to be nourished, and refuse to eat and drink water. Well, I am not one of those people. I enjoy cake, but I do love my sun.

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    1. I'm a Leo. I'm astrologically predispositioned to love the sun. Unfortunately I prefer cold to hot. I can lay in the sun for about 15-20 minutes before going inside for a bit.

      I'm not concerned about the cancer. I'm just expecting it.

      Delete
  3. I burn. Even when I slather slather on sunscreen and where a hat to avoid the burn I still barely tan at all. I look like a goddamned vampire.

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    1. I call that look "pale and interesting". Don't knock it. You can pull of some interesting styles!

      Delete
  4. I didn't realize you lived in Sri Lanka? That's crazy! But yes, um, I see what you're saying about risk factors... can you just live in a protective bubble for the rest of your life? Or live like those Dateline special kids who are allergic to sunlight and can only go out at night?

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    Replies
    1. Meh...too late. I'm well-past the CDC age where protection counts. And Sri Lanka through Taiwan were all ages 10-17, so I'm just screwed. Might as well enjoy it!

      Delete
  5. I used to lay out in the sun and scorch myself all the damn time as a teen and early 20er. Now I hardly go outside. And if I do, I will usually slather myself with lotion if I know I'm going to be out in the sun or at the beach. Usually I will burn once a year and then tan the rest of the time if I am outside.

    I have breast cancer in my lineage. My mom's mom. She did not survive it. I am always fearful of that. I've never been too fearful of skin cancer, but I have a lot of the risk factors as well. Holy moley, batman!!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. haha! (Holy Moley)

      If you're getting your regular checks, they're very helpful. Hestia found hers in a self-exam, and a lumpectomy got rid of it.

      Delete
  6. Phew no tanning beds but I am so fair, I never tan just burn. In like 5 minutes. My mom and grandma get skin cancers removed as often as I wash my sheets. I dont live in the tropics, but I bet 5,000 feet up in the desert southwest USA would suffice. Crap. Http://disorderlywanderlustblog.blogspot.com

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    1. Oh, yeah. And especially if your burns were in your youth. If I sit outside for lunch, I will be pink in about 10-15 minutes. It always surprised my coworkers.

      Delete
  7. My grandmother has had plenty of skin cancer - to the point that some of the cartilage in her nose was removed, and so my dad jokes that when she breathes her nostrils flap (not true but sort of funny). My dad has a few spots of it himself - so yes, I'm a candidate. However, I've never spent much time in the sun at all. It's just too hot here for the most part - and in Kerala they're always telling you to stay out of it. It's considered bad for it to hit the top of your head even for a moment... Of course, I've had a few bad sunburns from when we went to the beach - but that didn't happen much at all.

    Presently I'm sprouting more moles and freckles by the day. :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I recall in Sri Lanka everyone carried plain black umbrellas just to keep the sun off their head on sunny days. I hope you are staying out of it - you're not kidding about the heat! When I was in India, again, it was at high altitudes, so we hung out outside all the time.

      Delete
  8. Ugh. I feel you Red.

    My dad had skin cancer. You'd think that would have kept me from baking myself in a tanning bed, but no...Ima dumb girl.

    *Sigh*

    I guess all we can do is (belatedly) wear sunscreen and hope for the best.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yeah, one of my uncles - another redhead - commented when I was visiting a week ago about the dummies who use tanning beds. I did not own up to being one of them.

      Delete
  9. I take excellent care of my skin and don't stay in the sun long, but I do burn quite easily. My eyes are a light green and I can't go outside without shades. Still, it never hurts to be extra careful!

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    1. I do the same. And I've not burned that bad for the last few years. But again, supposedly it's the burns from when we're younger that count.

      Delete
  10. When I was young, we thought you HAD to get your first burn out of the way each year, and then it would turn into a nice tan for the rest of the summer. I hate to think of all the damage that was done!

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    1. I still heard that from college-age kids just a few years ago. Unfornately, it never worked on me. After the first burn came another and another.

      Delete
  11. The harsh sun of South Australia kicks the shit out of me every year. I too am expecting the big C to attach itself in skin form.

    Come on 100 posts!

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    1. I've heard that Australia has high rates of skin cancer. Ya'll have a reputation as being very outdoorsy, on top of all the sun.

      Delete
  12. Hey, I also lived in asia! And my mom took it a step further--too cheap to by tanning oil, she used baby oil. Slather up, hun.

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    1. Well my mom never used baby oil, but that 2nd-degree burn I mentioned? Yeah, south coast of Taiwan, with baby oil. Lesson learned, right? Negative. Geography-buff me, when I came back to school in the States, well out of the tropics, I did it again.

      I don't know why we do these things.

      Delete
  13. Replies
    1. You too. ...see you on the other side!

      Delete
  14. I used to tan out in the sun and stay tan all summer long and most of the winter. Now I have wear sunscreen on my arms, head and face when I go out for any amount of time. I blame it on the environment, less ozone to protect me. It certainly can't be because I'm getting older. Definitely not that.

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    1. Oh, there's definitely less ozone. Notice how the levels of SPF keep rising? We didn't need it that strong when we were kids!

      Delete

I enjoy a good debate. Feel free to shake things up. Tell me I'm wrong. Ask me why I have such a weird opinion. ...or, just laugh and tell how this relates to you and your life.