A bottle of spray tan sits unused in a dark bathroom as a woman walks away.

With Age Comes Wisdom About Skin Cancer

As I was getting ready for work the other day, I glanced at a bottle of lotion that was sitting on the countertop in my bathroom. It was a bottle of moisturizer that is supposed to gradually tint your skin to look like you have a tan. I had purchased it in the spring, when I was thinking about the warmer days ahead but knowing that lying in the sun for hours wouldn’t be on my agenda.

Maybe I don't want to look tan

Funny thing, though. We're now headed towards the end of September. Labor Day weekend has come and gone, marking the unofficial end of summer, and I have yet to open the bottle of lotion. And that realization made me feel kind of proud. I remembered how, for far too many years, I felt like I had to have a tan to look good (or in my instance, it was more of a sunburn since I never really tanned). I remembered the hours upon hours of lying in the sun at the beach, or by a pool, or in my back yard.

I made it

What a long way I’ve come since then. I realized I just made it through an entire summer without feeling the need to look tan. I wore shorts (in public!) without worrying about my pale legs showing. I didn’t have a need for the tinted moisturizer, nor did I ever feel the need to lay in the sun for hours at a time.

I wish I'd known then what I know now

And I was happy to realize that, the older I have gotten, the wiser I have gotten about taking better care of my skin. Oh how I wish I had that knowledge when I was younger. I could have saved myself from the numerous areas of skin cancer I have had over the last 25+ years. I could have saved myself from having the numerous surgeries and procedures after being diagnosed with yet another skin cancer area. I could have saved myself the thousands and thousands of dollars I have paid in medical bills for skin cancer surgeries and procedures. I could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety.

I had no idea what I was doing to myself

What I didn’t realize when I was younger was how much damage can be done by over-exposure to the sun. It was something I honestly never thought about when I was a kid. And as I was growing up, I didn’t think that my time in the sun (and later in tanning beds) would be the reason for my skin cancer diagnosis in my late 20’s. I didn’t even consider that my days spent lounging by a pool or in the backyard would lead to my being a skin cancer patient for the rest of my life.

With age comes wisdom

Thankfully I am now wiser. Much wiser. I can’t undo the damage I did to my skin when I was younger, unfortunately, but I can make sure that from here on out, I do what is necessary to protect my skin from sunburn and from over-exposure to the sun. I encourage you to do the same. Your skin will thank you!

What do you wish your younger self knew about skin cancer?

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