HealthLifestyle

Melanoma Ain’t No Joke: Here’s How to Protect Your Skin

melanomaI’m 30, the Founder of a Lifestyle and Wellness Brand, and I was just found with an early stage melanoma.

I’m no stranger to moles and freckles- that’s for SURE. For most of my 20’s and teenage years I’ve had more moles than I can count. I don’t remember being so freckly/moley as a child, but I do remember sometime in my late teens noticing that I was covered in moles and freckles. Since then, I’ve had about 45 biopsies, and about 6 excisions (when an atypical or a pre-cancerous mole is found they will often have to further remove margins and make a larger incision to remove all the cells related to the mole); so being mindful about my skin is no stranger to me.

About a month ago I went in for my most recent and routine skin check up, and my doctor found a really suspicious looking mole that I had missed (I really don’t inspect my moles too closely).  As per usual, I had the biopsy performed, but not as per usual, the result came back as an early melanoma (with a second confirmation from another pathologist). Ugh. I had a feeling it was something, so before even knowing the results I decided I’d go back up to see my favorite plastic surgeon if I needed to in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. So up I went – a number of stitches later, the full skin section is off at the lab to ensure they removed all suspicious cells.

The good news is that it’s early stage, and the good news is that its really small, but this is a wakeup call for me, and one from which I’m going to learn and share what I learn with all of you.

I promise to publish a good amount of info on melanoma, but here’s what I want you to know to get you started.

What’s melanoma?

The cells that create brown skin pigment and protect the deeper layers of the skin from the sun and effects of UV radiation are called melanin. Melanoma is cancer that originates in the melanocytes, the cells in the skin that creates melanin.

Melanoma can occur in parts of the skin that don’t ever see sun- and it’s also a type of cancer that can easily spread to other parts of the body- so if you think you’ve found something on your skin, go get it checked out.

Here’s a few good resources for more info on melanoma:

American Cancer Society

National Institutes for Health (NIH)

A few important key points to preventing melanoma and skin cancer:

  1. If you’ve never been to the skin doctor, GO. It’s easy, and skin cancer (of all forms) is one of the most preventable cancers around. We just need to get checked.
  2. Avoid tanning beds. True confession, as a teenager I wanted to be tanner, so I’ve definitely been to a tanning bed – I’d guesstimate about 10 times. It may have been what caused my moles, and it may not- but it’s definitely something I’d recommend avoiding now that I know, and something I’m recommending to you that you avoid too.
  3. Wear sunblock. This is a bummer, I know, but skin cancer is even more of a bummer. I’ve selected my favorite sunscreens and they’re in the shop for you to check out. Choose a UVA/UVB broad spectrum block- I like sunblocks that contain titanium and zinc because they sit on top the skin and aren’t absorbed by the skin; they may be more effective and less absorbed by the body (aka maybe fewer chemicals floating around in your bloodstream).
  4. UPF clothing is also a good option. Clothes with built in sunblock, yes please! Though these clothes used to be REALLY ugly and dorky, so many great companies have come up with clothing that has UV protection, here’s a few of my faves:
    1. Lululemon (this link goes right to their UPF clothes)
    2. Lily Pullitzer (this link goes right to their UPF clothes)
    3. Mott 50 (their stuff is SO CUTE and all UPF!)

Food may be able to help:

Like with anything, nutrient-rich foods are good for lots of things- including potentially helping to repair damage to the skin caused by sun exposure. Here’s a few foods that may help repair sun damage. Major nutrients include those in the carotenoid family (beta carotene, lycopene, lutein), selenium, vitamins A and C.

  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash
  • Greens: Kale, spinach, collards, chard,
  • Tomatoes
  • Brazil nuts
  • Eggs (whole eggs!)
  • Berries
  • Almonds
  • Avocado

I promise to talk more about skin cancer and how you can prevent it, but please think about (and practice) covering up your skin this summer (and always).

STRESS:

Stress is a major component for ALL types of cancers. Stress can weaken your immune system and we know that’s at the root for many different types of cancers. Stress can be a hard one to beat- but being mindful, and aware of your stress, and coming up with simple solutions that can help reduce stress can really be beneficial.

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Turning off your phone at night
  • Reading
  • Taking a bath

This is just the beginning of our skin cancer conversation, but I hope you can take something from this and learn!

Check out the shop for sunblocks I think you’ll love!