If Janice Gillespie had to do it over again, she would have listened to her mother.
Gillespie, 67, spoke on Friday at OU Medical Center in hopes of encouraging others to avoid sun damage and skin cancer.
The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day” in hopes of highlighting the importance of sun safety.
Gillespie said she began lying outside to tan around the age of 14, despite her mother’s best attempts to stop her.
“My mother used to say, ‘You don’t need to be out there,’ but I didn’t listen, and I didn’t pay attention,” she said.
Gillespie said her love for the sun didn’t stop outside; she used to visit the tanning beds at least once a day.
Her love for tanned skin continued up until her late 50s when she began to get irritated by the bumps and spots that had started forming on her arms, chest and especially on her legs.
Gillespie was referred to Dr. Pamela Allen, a dermatologist with OU Physicians, to take a look at her skin.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
Do Not Burn or Tan
- Avoid intentional tanning.
- Avoid tanning beds.
Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
- When sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Wear Protective Clothing
- Long-sleeved shirt and pants.
- A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Generously Apply Sunscreen
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher for protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.
- Apply 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours.
Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand
- These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Get Vitamin D Safely
- Through a healthy diet.
- Take vitamin supplements.
Early detection of melanoma can save your life. Carefully examine all of your skin once a month. A new or changing spot should be evaluated.
“They looked at my leg and said, ‘That’s a melanoma,’” Gillespie said. “I said, ‘Oh, goodness.’ I was scared.”
Melanoma more common
Allen said melanoma is showing up more and more in people because of the lack of sun safety education in recent years.
Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. That’s more than all other cancers combined. The number of skin cancer cases has been going up over the past few decades.
The good news is that you can do a lot to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer, or to catch it early enough so that it can be treated effectively. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Much of this exposure comes from the sun, but some may come from man-made sources, such as indoor tanning lamps.
Finding possible skin cancers doesn’t require any x-rays or blood tests – just your eyes and a mirror. If skin cancer does develop, finding it early is the best way to ensure it can be treated effectively.
BY ADAM KEMP