I had my annual skin check done yesterday, in particular to have the doctor check out a (very) small bump on my nose that’s been bothering me just because it was hanging in there. It wasn’t growing, but neither was it getting any smaller. The doctor thought it looked a bit suspicious, so she removed it for a biopsy. I should know the results a week from now.
I’m fair-skinned, with blue eyes, and considered “high risk” for skin cancer, especially since I grew up in Southern California and spent w-a-y too much unprotected time out in the sun. My family spent weekends and summers at the beach, where we stayed and played every day from 10:00 am until 4:00 in the afternoon, what everyone now knows to be the most dangerous time for sun exposure. And, while my brothers and sister got tans, I always got sunburns, often some really bad ones. In high school I used to slather myself with cocoa butter, baby oil or greasy Bain de Soleil before laying out on the beach, and continued to burn my skin in an attempt to attain that always elusive tan. Sunscreen or skin health was not in anyone’s vocabulary back then.
The last time I spent any prolonged time in the sun was when we lived in Key West in the late 1980s. I still wasn’t using any sunscreen nor was anyone else I knew. I spent a lot of time at the beach or pool, and for the first time in my life I actually got a tan, after of course getting a sunburn first. However, when I had a required pre-move physical for our overseas transfer to Japan, the navy doctor recommended that I greatly limit any time spent in the sun – with my skin and history it was just too risky.
And so for 25 years I didn’t sunbathe or spend time in the sun . . . until we moved to Hawai’i.
These days I wear SPF 70 sunscreen all the time. At the beach I stay under an umbrella the whole time except for the short time when I’m out in the water. I don’t spend a lot of time outside otherwise – my longest exposure to direct sun is the 30 minutes we spend each week at the farmers’ market. Otherwise I’m indoors or under cover.
According to my doctor, the suspicious bump on my nose (which was very tiny) is a result of sun exposure I received over 50 years ago, not something that’s occurred since we’ve been here. Overall, she felt my skin was in excellent condition, especially for someone my age and with my history. IF the bump does turn out to be cancerous, I will go over to Oahu for a Mohs procedure to remove any remaining cancerous cells. But, the doctor said there’s a good chance the bump was pre-cancerous and its removal was all that will need to be done. I refuse to worry about it until I find out for sure what’s going on.
In the meantime though, I’m going to be on the lookout for a new hat, one with a wider brim. I’ll also keep up with my strict sunscreen and umbrella regimen, and have my skin checked annually. And most importantly, I’ll continue to maintain my very healthy respect for the intensity of the sun here in Hawai’i and the damage it can do.