June 17, 2011

Skin Cancer, Sun, and Weight Loss

Earlier this week, I went to a dermatologist that a friend recommend to have my body checked for moles.  I have a number of large moles--especially on my back where I can't see.  And even though I don't burn and tan easily, I was a lifeguard for a few years in college--so I know I have had excessive sun exposure.

So this dermatologist, whom I was preparing to like since a friend recommended, was really direct with me--almost scolding--and so I didn't like her :) -- but I've been thinking a lot about what she said.  Here were her very direct recommendations:

--Do NOT go out into the sun between the hours of 11 AM and 4 PM.
--Burning is worse, but any tanning is bad--it changes the DNA of your skin and leads to skin cancer.
--Wear sunglasses and hats
--Sunscreen Number Matters -- SPF 50 or more
--Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours
--Even when it's not very hot out, you still need to wear sunscreen
--1 in 5 Americans will get skin cancer.  Because I have had extreme exposure--I will most likely get skin cancer.
--If you have a mole, it doesn't mean the cancer is contained in that spot--it could be all over your body.
--Don't let your children be lifeguards.

Now I'm guessing that this doctor had her reasons for being very direct with me--and I'm guessing those reasons have something to do with wanting me to take this seriously.  And I can buy in to ALMOST everything she said.  But here's the kicker:

Staying inside between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm just won't work--and here's why:  We live in Minnesota, a state that typically only gets three warm months a year (and perhaps a few more weeks if we are lucky).  So when we get the sun, we are going to enjoy it!  When we get a hot, sunny day, we are going to go to the beach, or the lake, or outside for some summer fun!  We endure the cold, cold MN winters, so we deserve a little fun in the sun for a few months.  My children are also inside SO much during the year--and this is summer--we want to enjoy every second of it before the school year creeps up on us once again.

So I can get on board with all of her recommendations--we will slather on the sunscreen and wear protective gear--but we WILL be outside--enjoying life! And that's OK with me!

SO here's what this all has to do with weight loss for me:  

--I have to do what I can and accept the consequences of those choices. 
--Doing nothing is not an option--and is really irresponsible.
--I need to take care of my body, I WANT to take care of my body--so managing my eating and activity is necessary--just like managing sun exposure is a necessary reality.
--I have to do what I can do--even though I will not be perfect!  But that is life.
--I have to be realistic in what I can do and what works for me.
--And my expectations of what I can/can't do might change over time as I change and life happens.

So that's my sun and skin cancer connection.  Makes sense to me.  These days with weight loss heavily on my mind, everything relates back to it.   (BTW, I had to have two moles removed, and will find out next if they pose any problem.)  And I'm not sure if I will go back to this dermatologist--I prefer a gentler approach--but time will tell.  I could change my mind.  Life could change my mind.


  1. I've had 3 skin cancers. I'm great about sunscreen and hats. Do I avoid mid-day sun? Not necessarily. But I'm not a major outdoorsy type.

  2. I had to have two moles removed--am waiting to find if they are something serious. I understand the reasoning behind avoiding the sun at times. I just need to be realistic.


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