A woman and a man explaining their experiences with Question marks

What Does My Son Know About Skin Cancer?

I was diagnosed with melanoma in 1988 well before my children were born. My son was born eight years later in 1996 and by that time I had developed a solid skincare regimen and safe sun practices. I moved from California to New York and spent a lot less time at the beaches and more time shoveling snow. As time passed, I became more knowledgeable about protecting myself from damaging ultraviolet rays and I put this information into practice.

I tried my best to set a good example

I also preached good skincare practices at home, or at least I thought I did. I tried to lead both by example and directive. I showed the way and I made sure others followed my example, but to what effect? What do my children know and what practices are they following when it comes to skin cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment?

So, I interviewed my 24-year-old son about his knowledge of skin cancer and here is how he responded

How has your father’s experience with skin cancer influenced or affected you?

“I had never really taken it seriously until I got sunburned myself. Every time my friends and I would go out growing up, I would take pride in how I would never redden, burn, or even go flush, all without sunscreen. It wasn’t until, on a summer camp field trip, as a counselor, did I come back red, in pain, and peeling. I had to learn for myself the dangers of the sun.”

What is your understanding of skin cancer? How do people get it? How is it diagnosed? How is it treated?

“I’m pretty sure it comes from moles or preexisting skin discolorations that dermatologists recommend you get checked. They’ll perform a biopsy if it looks bad, they remove it altogether if it is cancer.”

Are you concerned about skin cancer? Why? Why not?

“I’m covered in moles so I’ve never been one to fret. They’ve just been a part of me, like a skin constellation (constella-skin?). The thought of one of these birthmarks turning on me is such a distant concern.”

My take-aways and conclusions

He had to learn for himself

My son had to experience sun damage for himself before he would start wearing sunscreen when he got out on his own. My hope would have been that he would have learned that from me and my example, but like most of us, he had to make a personal decision for himself based on his understanding and experiences.

He seems to know a lot

He seems to have a pretty good handle on how skin cancer is diagnosed and some of the treatment possibilities, especially for melanoma. I had an excision back in 1988 and my scar is his frame of reference. I am happy that he does not worry about things. I will say that my understanding that there is a genetic component to skin cancer makes me want him to show a little more concern. In the end, I want him to be aware, but not paralyzed by fear.

Proud of my son

"I guess I give myself a B-," he said. He’s a clear-headed young man and he generally asks me questions when anything concerns him. Our lines of communication are open and I believe that if he saw something on his skin that was worrisome, I would be the second to know (and his dermatologist would be a phone call away).

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