Maintaining Sun Protective Habits for Life
Last updated: January 2023
When I was first diagnosed with melanoma, sun protection was the only thing on my mind. At that moment I re-prioritized my life to ensure I did everything possible to prevent any further UV exposure. As the years have passed that fear still exists, but it has become much less paralyzing. Life happens and UV exposure is no longer the only concern you have. However, that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. While the fear may subside over time, make sure your sun protective habits don’t.
Sticking to your goals
Gym memberships skyrocket every January. People decide that this will be the year they finally get into shape. They buy a gym membership and show up for about a week, but then life quickly gets in the way. About 1 out of every 5 people quit their resolution within a week. And an estimated 4 of the 5 people quit before the end of the year.
Part of the reason this phenomena occurs is because results take time. Some people think your body transforms after 1 or 2 gym sessions, but it takes much longer than that. Without immediate results it’s sometimes difficult to stay dedicated to your goals. And with sun protection, a similar issue presents itself. It’s extremely difficult to visibly see the progress you’re making with your skin health. After a year of daily sunscreen application your skin may look the exact same as when you started, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working. UV damage is cumulative, any UV damage you experience now can come back to bite you in the ass in the future.
Skin cancer prevention is a lifelong game
Skin cancer prevention is a life-long game, don’t let it become like most people’s gym resolutions. It’s not a fleeting goal that you can drop after a few weeks, months, or even years. It’s something you need to do for your entire life, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with any type of skin cancer in the past.
Side note: As a fitness instructor I also think everyone should make physical activity a priority in their life, as it’s proven to provide unbelievable health benefits. I don’t want to downplay the importance of staying in shape and maintaining a healthy weight. However, skipping the gym every now and then probably won’t kill you. Skipping the sunscreen even just a few times very well could.
Looking at the bigger picture
I remember when I first learned about my diagnosis and how terrifying that moment was. It really got me thinking about the future and the things I still wanted to do in my life. My melanoma diagnosis gave me a new sense of urgency to chase bigger dreams, and not spend all of my free time and money at the bars. Looking back, I think it helped to shape me into who I’ve become today and for that I’m grateful. However, I’m one of the lucky ones that was able to completely remove the melanoma before it spread.
I never want to have my skin cancer luck tested again. Sun screen has become a very regular part of my life, and for those of you reading this – I hope it’s also a very regular part of yours. Skin cancer is not something to take lightly, and protecting your skin is the best way to avoid it. While it may be an inconvenience at times, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. I guarantee the consequences skin cancer can have on your life are far worse than any inconvenience proper sun protection might have on your life now.
Don’t forget the fear, embrace it and let it help guide you into healthier decisions.
Do you sunscreen in the fall?