Here in the U.S. we hear about the importance of staying out of the sun during peak hours and using sun screen. Over in Australia, there was a HUGE campaign to get people to protect themselves from the sun. “Slip, Slop, Slap” was an advertisement we saw ALL the time on TV. Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat. The kids in our small town had to have a hat to be allowed to play outside at recess.
Here are a few pictures of the kids from back then… and you can see we were all wearing hats (and sunscreen)! (In the lower right picture, we’re all wearing hats with fly nets because there were hundreds upon hundreds of flies there).
I saw the power of the sun myself when I left some paper and a stack of books on the back porch while I went inside to get a drink. When I came back a while later, I noticed that the paper had yellowed in the area that was not covered by the book! Gulp! Hubby and I were very, very careful with the kids. They wore full-body swim suits as babies and toddlers that covered their legs and arms fully. They were doused with sunscreen. They wore sunnies to protect their eyes. They always wore a hat at the playground and out and about.
Even Hubby and I were pretty good about wearing a hat and sunscreen… but I was outdoorsy and a runner and I often didn’t think about or didn’t bother putting sunscreen on my legs when I went out for a run or mountain bike ride.
A couple of years ago, I noticed a couple of brown spots on my lower legs. They were small, the size of freckles or so. They’ve slowly been growing and now they are the size of a pencil eraser.
Recently a friend of mine looked at them and said, “Wow, you’d better get those checked out.” She asked if I knew the ABCs of skin cancer. I didn’t.
The blotches on my lower legs were asymmetrical and the borders weren’t all even. And while there wasn’t a huge difference in color, if I looked closely enough I could see slightly different shades of brown. I decided to make an appointment to see a dermatologist. I had to wait for 5 weeks before I could see him.
In the meantime, I talked with friends about my worry. It seemed that everyone I knew had a story to tell. My runner-friend (who had spent a lot of time tanning at the beach as a teenager) had skin cancer cut off her chest. Another friend said all of her older relatives seemed to have had skin cancer cut out from time-to-time. Another friend had a questionable spot removed from her hip.
The waiting was hard. I read online that malignant skin cancer tends to be most prevalent on the lower legs for women and on the torso for men. Yikes — another strike against me.
In the end, my story has a good ending… the spots I have were caused by sun damage, but luckily they are nothing to worry about.
So, now when I’m being incredibly careful with the kids… I’m going to be sure to take the extra time to slather up myself… including my legs!!