Soak Up The Sun Now, Pay Later

By: Christine Kennedy
By: Christine Kennedy

It is July and and here in Eastern Carolina we're pretty fortunate to be surrounded by so much water. So it's obvious that people are going to be out in the elements around this time of year. Many of you probably grab the sunscreen before heading out and although you may not know it now that sunscreen could save your skin and your life.

Teresa Smith was just 21 years old when she was diagnosed with her first skin cancer.

Smith said, "My first one was a fever blister that came up on my lip and it kept growing and after about a week my lip went numb."

Growing up on Topsail Beach, she says she didn't use sunscreen.

Smith said, "We had baby oil. Just cake on the baby oil and I tanned. I always had a good tan."

Today, Smith says she still suffers from her sun exposure. She's had 24 malignant melanomas, 2 squamous cells, 5 skin grafts and numerous basal cell carcinomas.

Smith now works with Dr. Eric Howell, a Dermatologist at Eastern Dermatology and Pathology in Greenville. He makes a living helping those who've damaged their skin in the sun. A tan according to Dr. Howell is nothing more than showing you've damaged your skin. But he says certain people are more pre-disposed to skin cancer. Those include people who burn easily and people who have a difficult time getting a tan.

He says using sunscreen is key to not only prevent sunburn, but skin cancer as well. But Dr. Howell says people need to be aware of certain things when buying the right sunscreen.

Sunscreen Tips
- Apply "Broad Spectrum" UVA/UVB
- SPF 30
- Apply 20 min before going outside
- Re-apply every 1 to 2 hours
- Use Titanium Dioxide/ Zinc Oxide on sensitive skin
- Avoid Sun from Noon to 4 PM

Dr. Howell says keep an eye on rough patches on your skin as well as moles that change shape or are bigger than a pencil eraser.

Dr. Howell says you should visit the dermatologist in your mid to late 20's if you've had a lot of bad burns. If not, he says most people can hold off on making an appointment until their 30's.

Most melanoma cancers develop in a person's 40's, 50's and above, while non-melanoma skin cancers develop in people ages 50 and above.


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  • by Endurance Swimmer Location: Greenville on Jul 11, 2010 at 10:56 PM
    I admit I don't use much suncreen, except on my face when I tan outside. I'm so dark, people tell me I look black! I also use a tanning bed when I don't tan outside; I don't like the pale look, go tanners!!
  • by T Location: Gville on Jul 9, 2010 at 05:10 PM
    To Maryann, Yes I learned really quickly what a dumb thing to do but we had not too long been married so.... LOL but yeah I don't go anywhere if I'm going to be outside for any length of time without my SPF of 50 not to mention as an AVON rep I've learned how not using SPF can really cause a lot of wrinkles.... so I use the day cream with SPF everyday just to protect my face from future issues..
  • by Ted Location: Grimesland on Jul 9, 2010 at 12:09 PM
    Yeah, skin cancer can be deadly. It's a bad thing and I'm sorry for those who have it, but honestly! I wish the news would stop trying to scare the crap out of you. Skin cancer is just one of a billion things trying to kill us all. Odds are most of us will die because of something else. It's summer and in today's world knowing what we all now know if you spend any time outside without sunscreen you're just a fool, you're gonna get a nasty sunburn and at some point you MAY develop skin cancer, but probably not...
  • by Sam Location: Kitty Hawk on Jul 9, 2010 at 10:59 AM
    Being around the beach, both my wife and I spend lots of time out in the sun. She loves to tan a whole lot and I love to go out surfing and fishing (whether on my boat, the shore, or the pier). I'll admit, I tend to forget often when it comes to putting on sunscreen, trying to do better about that. My wife reminds me just about every time. Maybe we both will be cancer free all our lives. Hope so! Worst sunburn ever I was about 14 (1991) and that was in Myrtle Beach. It was so painful after the 4th day down there, I could'nt make it onto the beach. It then started raining consistently for the next 5 days while that recovery period was going on.
  • by Citizen Location: Greenville on Jul 9, 2010 at 10:53 AM
    I guess so... but I thought people have known for the past few decades that sitting in the sun causes skin cancer, and makes you all leathery when you are older. Guess there are still some people that didn't get the memo. Shrug.
  • by Karen Location: Kinston on Jul 9, 2010 at 10:01 AM
    I too grew up thinking the tanner the better. 8 years ago I had a melonomia removed. Scared me. I'll never lay out like I used to and will always wear sun block from now on. One more thing---tanning beds are bad news people.
  • by hope Location: NC on Jul 9, 2010 at 08:56 AM
    That was my message to Citizen and Teresa Smith below. Forgot to leave my 'handle'.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 9, 2010 at 08:54 AM
    Citizen, she damaged her skin when she was a kid. Now she is trying to get the message out. Melanoma can be deadly. Kids think they are invincible. Thanks Teresa Smith! Message rec'd! I will share it with my very pale family member who loves the sun, and doesn't tan easily. Teresa Smith, you may save a life! God bless you!
  • by Citizen Location: Greenville on Jul 9, 2010 at 06:23 AM
    So wait, is this story supposed to make those upset by the racist tanning law that just went into effect somehow happier? The lady wore freakin baby oil for crying out loud, what did she expect?
  • by OutsideLookingIn Location: ENC on Jul 9, 2010 at 05:19 AM
    I also grew up visiting the beaches and pools, but we used a popular tanning lotion; not sure about any SPF back then(70's). Back then getting a tan was the goal of everyone I knew. My tans got quite a lot of compliments back then. I quit tanning in my mid thirties when the news about the enlarging hole in the ozone came out. Plus, I ran into a bank teller who had the most beautiful 'peaches n' cream' complexion I'd ever seen. That was over 20 yrs. ago. I've used #30 year round since then. My skin shows the sun damage on my arms mainly, in freckles, brown spots, etc...but it could be worse. I've seen people who continued to tan and their skin looks like a lizard; unnatural. I still admire the fair-skinned ladies who never tanned, and wish I had not.
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