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“That Healthy Glow”

2012 August 6

By Becky Bronstein (Student Intern Region 3 Summer 2012)

With my fair skin and red hair I always knew I had to be careful when it came to sun exposure. I was especially aware of my risk after a trip to my dermatologist when I was proclaimed the “moley-est” of my family. When I went to the beach as a kid I was forced to wear baggy t-shirts to protect my sensitive back and shoulders as well as wear a wide brim hat to shield me from UV rays; not to mention a healthy slathering of the kind of sunscreen that refused to rub in, leaving me even more white and pasty.

As a senior in high school I thought I had it all. I was captain of two varsity sports, class president, and involved in a slew of extracurricular activities. I had a wonderful group of friends, a supportive family, and a recent acceptance into the college of my choice. However, in the spring of 2011 when I visited my dermatologist for a routine mole check I was told I needed to surgically remove an “interesting” looking mole from my right shoulder immediately. Even though I was well aware that my mom had recently had a malignant mole on her forearm, I never thought some “interesting” mole could amount to anything. Shortly thereafter I had the mole removed. I was playing softball the very next day.

When the test results came back I learned that the mole was pre-cancerous. Where did I go wrong? Sure my fair skin and maybe genetics put me at an increased risk, but I thought I took all of the precautions. Oh wait, could it have been those long weekends in the sun playing softball? Could it have been that time I didn’t reapply sunscreen after hours at the beach? Surely those sunburns I could count on one hand couldn’t have brought me to the brink of cancer. What if I had not gone to the dermatologist or waited just a few more months for my check up?

I am 18 years young and I will have a wormy looking scar on my right shoulder for the rest of my life. At first I was scared of what that scar represented. It was a reminder that I could have had cancer. Now, however, the scar is a part of me and it serves instead as a reminder of the precautions I must take.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you are only 17, if your family has already had enough of it or even if you’ve tried to avoid it. Cancer can affect anyone. By no means will I stay indoors during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm or panic at the appearance of a new freckle, but I will continue to wear protective clothing and seek shade when I can. I can do without that “healthy” glow. I’ll stick with my pasty white sunscreen.

About the author: Rebecca Bronstein completed a volunteer internship this summer in the Air Protection Division at EPA Region 3 where her work focused on climate change, promoting renewable energy and educating students. Becky is a rising sophomore at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in Environmental Science as a member of the Honors Program and the Dean’s List.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012

    Be brave and with everything

  2. August 8, 2012

    My Gosh, you are really raising my awareness for really checking more often my moles, as I noticed that their number is progressively increasing with my growing up, but never thought that this can be a warning sign. Thanks, Rebeca for sharing your experience and really am glad that everything is well with you!

  3. August 8, 2012

    Excellent post about the cancer and what are the precautions to avoid it.

    You are right,Cancer does care who you are and it does care about your age.

    Thank you

  4. August 13, 2012

    Being precautions is important, but as long as you have genetic predisposition you are always in the group of risk. That’s great that you took all the necessary and timely tests and removed that malignant mole.

  5. Michael permalink
    January 21, 2014

    I have found that when using sun screen it does definitely help me to protect my skin from the sun, But a few months ago I have began using a skin exfoliating mitten and have found that after using it for a few weeks my skin began to not to get burned. I read somewhere that by removing the top dead skin layers it is able to use essential oils to protect itself from burning. It seems to be working

  6. Dermology Skincare permalink
    March 31, 2014

    Hi, thanks for the awareness. I found several of your experiences very serious. Even I didn’t have any idea about these skin problems. Thanks again.

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