By Stephanie Spillmann 4/14/17

Your Child’s Sunburn Can Lead to Skin Cancer


Warm weather is back. As a lover of sunshine and loather of winter, this couldn’t be better news in my world. As a skin cancer fighter, I try to do my part and advocate for sunscreen use as soon as the spring clothes come out.


Skin cancer is no small thing


A Battle with Skin Cancer is No Small Thing


I have battled giant spots of skin cancer on my left shoulder, and several spots on my face, including one that required extensive plastic surgery after it was removed. 


On my back, there are scars resembling railroad tracks from numerous spots that have been removed over the years. The dermatologist used staples instead of stitches.


NOTE: Never let the dermatologist use staples to close wounds after removing moles and skin cancer spots. I was young and not smart at the time.


​​Why Do I Struggle with Skin Cancer?


Great question.


For some ungodly reason, when I was a kid, sunscreen wasn’t a “thing.” My aunts all used baby oil to grease up and lay out.


Us kids may have gotten a dab of that obnoxious white zinc oxide on our noses…but that was it.


Fast-forward three decades. Research shows that if you were burned repeatedly by the sun in your younger years, your chances for melanoma in later life doubles. ​


In my case, it was blistering burns from our glorious trips to Florida’s Panhandle as a kid.


Thank God I have never had melanoma. All of my spots have been the less dangerous squamous and basal cell types. Since I’ve had such a struggle with my skin, I am a sunscreen fanatic.


Watch Your Left Side


A little-known fact about skin cancer is that it occurs frequently on your left side. Most people assume that if they are driving (or riding) in a car they are somewhat protected from the sun’s harmful rays.

NOT TRUE. This is why the left side is a popular spot for skin cancers because drivers are often exposed fully on that side while driving to the pool or enjoying long summer road trips.


Lather up, folks. It takes about a shot glass worth of sunscreen, applied at least 20 minutes (I prefer 30) before sun exposure, to be fully protected.


What about SPF?

While there is some controversy about how high the SPF needs to be, use at least a 30 for good protection. If you are like me and have fair skin and are prone to cancer spots, use SPF 50.
(Left side of my nose after skin graft surgery.)

There are plenty of good products out there, including Elta MD broad spectrum 46 which I’ve bought for years from my dermatologist’s office. These higher-end products are a little pricier ($30 isn’t bad, I think), but I figure that my skin has been through enough.

Now that summer is fast approaching, please do your skin a favor and protect it every day with a broad spectrum sunscreen. You’ll be glad you did. I wouldn’t wish reconstructive surgery of the nose on anyone! ​​


​What Are the Signs?


Signs of skin cancer include:


    • Changes in the color, size, or shape of existing moles.


    • Any new bumps, sores, or lesions that do not go away.


    • Itchy spots that scab over, go away, and then come back (as in my case).​


Always visit your dermatologist once a year, and get a thorough skin check. Pay close attention to the scalp, ears, left side of the body, toes, and places where your clothes cover your skin. No area is off limits to melanoma.

2 Responses

  1. Julie @ Millennial Boss says:

    Thank you for spreading the word. My sister had skin cancer at 22 and we were shocked. She had the olive skin growing up compared to the freckles the rest of us had and I think maybe my parents were less concerned and she was less concerned about getting burned? Even people who have skin not prone to burning need to pay attention!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for your perspective, Julie! It is certainly a good reminder not to let your guard down no matter what color your skin is. Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate.

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