Sun 101 |

5 Real Stories About Melanoma That Prove It Can Happen to Anyone

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and in honor of this very important time, we want to share some information about how prevalent skin cancer is, specifically melanoma. Read on for the symptoms of skin cancer of this kind – and what you can do to prevent it.

All sugar-coating aside, here are some basic facts you should know: One in five Americans will develop skin cancer every year, and according to the American Cancer Society, over 91,000 new diagnoses of melanoma were confirmed in the United States in 2018.

Melanoma is the cancer most people are diagnosed with when they are told they have skin cancer. It can be either benign or malignant, but when it’s malignant, it’s imperative to remove the portion of the skin that has melanoma as soon as possible. This is why it’s important to get your skin checked by a board-certified dermatologist at least once a year. It’s also why it’s so important to wear sunscreen every single day. SPF is the number one thing you can do to help protect your skin from skin cancer.

And you shouldn’t just wear it on your face. Melanoma is known to show up in the most unexpected places, like the scalp, in between fingers and toes and even on the palms of your hands. Thankfully, Supergoop! has developed products that make it easy to get broad spectrum sunscreen on all of these areas (we’re looking at you guys, Poof Part Protector and Forever Young Hand Cream).

Anyone can develop melanoma; it doesn’t matter much if you’re older or younger or if you have lighter or darker skin (in fact, those with darker skin often aren’t diagnosed with skin cancer until it has developed into something way more serious). And it doesn’t always matter if melanoma runs in your family or not.

Five of our friends were brave enough to share their melanoma stories with us – and our hope is that by sharing them with you, you’ll be better informed about how to stay protected. Read to learn more about warning signs, and the SPF they use to stay protected every single day.

Erin Blankstein

Age: 23
Age when you were diagnosed with melanoma: 20
Hometown: Boca Raton, Florida
Occupation: Music for Advertising Assistant at Universal Music Publishing Group
Favorite hobbies: Finding new music and going to concerts, traveling to new cities, Rumble Boxing and baking paleo desserts

What kind of melanoma were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with four melanomas, and they all happened to present themselves on my left arm within an 18 month time span. The first was on my left forearm, which was considered to be a true, true melanoma, and it was the deepest excision. The scar is actually in the shape of a question mark – my mom and I joke that it’s become a sign for all of life’s questions…including, “Do I have sunscreen on right now?”

The other three were further up on my left arm, all very close to each other, and they also were considered to be melanomas, but smaller and closer to the surface. Three-fourths were dark brown moles and had changed in color, size and texture, while one was actually a pink pigment.

What was the removal surgery like?
I’m very thankful that these surgeries were not so intense, and the healing process was not painful. The toughest part was internalizing the fact that I had so many of these skin cancers within such a short period of time at such a young age. It’s also challenging to live my life without being worried and paranoid about the sun.

“The scar is actually in the shape of a question mark — my mom and I joke that it’s become a sign for all of life’s questions…including, ‘Do I have sunscreen on right now?'”

-Erin

What’s your history with skin health and does skin cancer run in your family?

My history with skin health was always normal – I had routine check ups at the dermatologist once a year. Skin cancer does not run in my family, and no one in my family is as fair as I am. I did have other health issues, which I believe weakened my immune system to become more vulnerable to the melanomas at the time.

Once I was diagnosed with my first melanoma, I started seeing the dermatologist every three months for full body checks. I actually had 3D imaging done of my body, so every mole is tracked through the technology and a dermascope – it’s pretty amazing how my doctors can tell through these images if anything is changed and if there’s anything to be concerned about.

What sunscreen do you use every day to protect yourself?
I use Supergoop!’s Unseen Sunscreen and CC Cream on my face every day. It’s amazing how the Unseen Sunscreen is actually clear, and it goes on your skin so smoothly. I love that I can also use this product as a primer and it gives me that glowy, dewy look! The CC Cream is amazing because I feel as though I don’t need to wear makeup over it, but it provides that slight tint on my incredibly fair skin.

I also just purchased the Sun-Defying Sunscreen Oil, so I’m really excited to start using that as both an everyday body oil and sunscreen. Summer is around the corner, and I’m all about that glow!

What do you wish people knew about melanoma?
I wish people actually knew that you can get in your 20s, and to not act so oblivious to being out in the sun. It’s important to take precautions at any age, before it’s too late.

Margye Northington

Age:41
Age when you were diagnosed with melanoma: 30
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
Occupation: Supergoop! National Independent & Spa/Resort Salesperson
Favorite hobbies: Exercising, spending time with family and being outdoors

What kind of melanoma were you diagnosed with?
It was a mole on my right shoulder. I had to get surgery to have it removed.

What’s your history with skin health and does skin cancer run in your family?
I was outdoors a lot as a child and was diligent about wearing sunscreen. I feel like I took care of my skin, but there were those times that I wasn’t always diligent about reapplying my SPF that resulted in an occasional sunburn. Melanoma doesn’t run in my family, and I’ve always gone to the dermatologist since I was about 13. I also had basal cell carcinoma on my face under my eye that was found by my dermatologist when I was 34.

“It’s important for young people to know that the majority of sun damage occurs under the age of 18.”

-Margye

What sunscreen do you use every day to protect yourself?

I love Supergoop!’s lightweight formula, Superscreen Daily Moisturizer, and I include the CC Cream in my everyday makeup routine because I love how it has an SPF 35 plus amazing coverage. I also use the Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist with Vitamin C as a go-to for the beach and pool because I love how it can be applied on both wet and dry skin.

What do you wish people knew about melanoma?
When I was diagnosed, I wasn’t aware that melanoma was the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It’s important for young people to know that the majority of sun damage occurs under the age of 18.

Marissa Peterson

Age: 26
Age when diagnosed with melanoma: 22
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia by way of California
Occupation: Software consultant
Favorite hobbies: Reading (anything that’s a mystery or thriller!) and I love, love, love watching any and all sports.

What kind of melanoma were you diagnosed with?
I had stage one melanoma, located on my right leg, right near my shin. It was teated with a pretty serious surgery – it was a large excision that was followed by many stitches and a couple of staples…not cute.

What’s your history with skin health and does skin cancer run in your family?
Yes, skin cancer runs in my family and I’ve been aware of that my whole life, but I didn’t really take it as seriously as I should have in my teens and early twenties. Now I go to the dermatologist every six months for skin checks, which is a bit more than the average annual checkup but I don’t want to take anymore chances.

What sunscreen do you use every day to protect yourself?
Wow, so many, almost all of them. I’m very fair but I love a good glow, so the Healthy Glow Sunless Tan has been life-changing for me.

When I’m not wearing makeup, I use Superscreen because it helps protect from blue light and I sit in front of a computer all day. When I am wearing makeup, I love 100% Mineral Matte Screen, and either the Setting Powder or Defense Refresh Setting Mist because they both help set my look with SPF in the mix.

What do you wish people knew about melanoma?
It can happen to anyone, at any age. I was only 22 when it happened to me!

Kelly Colley Dinkelacker

Age: 34
Age when you were diagnosed with melanoma: 34
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Occupation: Architect
Favorite hobbies:  Painting, drawing, photography, renovating houses, furniture shopping

What kind of melanoma were you diagnosed with?
The melanomas were on my lower right shin and my front right shoulder –both areas that are prone to sun exposure, particularly my shoulder.

Treatment consisted of an initial biopsy, then surgical excision and additional pathology to confirm I was in the clear. Despite being Stage 0 and confined to the top layer of skin, the minimum excision of normal tissue surrounding the tumor was .5cm (kind of a lot), offset from the biopsy scar and down to the fat layer. Once the tissue was excised, I was stitched up, as it was assumed my pathology would be clear. Luckily, it was.

Recovery was challenging for me. Having the wounds on opposite sides of my body with a pregnant belly in the middle made maneuvering very tricky.

What’s your history with skin health and does skin cancer run in your family?

Back in 2015, I had three or four moles biopsied and all were atypical. Some of the moles were severely atypical, meaning the cell structure was not that of a normal mole. Just having these atypical moles put me at risk for melanoma, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I found out I actually had it.

Regarding my family history, last year my mother had a squamous cell carcinoma removed on her arm. Then, in January of this year, her doctor biopsied a mole on her ear that turned out to be Stage 0 melanoma.

Prior to all of this, I was regularly seeing a dermatologist at least twice a year, but now I’ll be going in for skin checks even more frequently. I have moderately sensitive skin, but I’m extremely fair. My sun allergy is intense, and I burn or get a rash simply from walking from my parking space into a store. Long story short, I’m just always trying to stay covered up!

“It is so important to be your own advocate and to know your body. Regular mole checks, including the scalp, are crucial, but knowing your own moles is even more crucial.”

-Kelly

What sunscreen do you use every day to protect yourself?
For my full body sunscreen, I like the Antioxidant-Infused Sunscreen Mist SPF 50. I prefer spray-on sunscreen because I find it’s less messy.

With my makeup routine, I typically avoid foundation and stick to concealers. I love that the CC Cream feels like a slightly tinted sunscreen with enough coverage that I don’t have to add concealer. Also, finding the perfect match for my pale skin is nearly impossible, but the fair/light CC Cream is close! It gives me the right amount of color without seeming unnatural or orange.

What do you wish people knew about melanoma?
Melanomas are not always easy to detect! As a starting point, know your mole’s ABCDEs:  Asymmetry, Borders, Colors, Diameter and Evolving. Both of my melanomas started off as symmetrical moles with regular edges, consistent in color and quite small in diameter – they truly looked like freckles. However, I began to notice very slight darkening and growth within the past couple of years. Neither of these moles caused much concern for any of my doctors, not even the one who agreed to biopsy!

This is why it’s so important to be your own advocate and to know your body. Regular mole checks, including the scalp, are crucial, but knowing your moles is even more crucial. This can be quite a process, but now there is a somewhat new technique called mole mapping. You basically strip down and have high resolution photographs taken of your entire body. You then go back for subsequent photos and the moles are tracked through what are essentially before-and-after photos. A dermatologist will evaluate the photos and you are given copies, too. For me, these photos will be a helpful tool to track the status of harder-to-see areas like my back.

Tara Beiser

Age: 26
Age when you were diagnosed with melanoma: 18
Hometown: Los Angeles
Occupation: Web Designer
Favorite hobbies: Yoga, running, hiking, painting, traveling, skiing, movies

What kind of melanoma were you diagnosed with?
I was diagnosed with early stage melanoma right after turning 18 years old. It was a complete shock to me since I was so young, and it was right on the center of my nose. I first noticed it two years prior as a small freckle and then it started growing and darkening. I never thought much of it, but luckily I went in for a skin check and the doctor had it biopsied. After receiving the results of melanoma, I then went to an oncologist and had it surgically removed.

What’s your history with skin health and does skin cancer run in your family?
When I was diagnosed, I was the first in my family to ever have had a cancerous mole removed. Since then, other members of my family have had squamous cell carcinomas removed. I go to the dermatologist twice a year for skin checks. Luckily, I have not had any more cancerous moles removed because I’m very diligent about sunscreen.

“When anyone asks me about my experience with melanoma, the two things I cannot emphasize enough are daily sunscreen usage and skin checks.”

What sunscreen do you use every day to protect yourself?
I love Supergoop! because of the high quality ingredients and higher SPF numbers, which are very important to me. I have oily skin so I absolutely love the Mineral Matte Screen. It’s so light and easy to reapply. I also love that it helps protect my skin from blue light, too. The Daily Correct CC Cream is my favorite when my skin needs a bit more coverage to help with acne and redness. I use it as I would a foundation. Finally, I love Everyday Sunscreen for the rest of my body. It’s great when I’m hiking, swimming or just being outdoors.

What do you wish people knew about melanoma?

I wish everyone knew the importance of wearing sunscreen regularly because it truly helps prevent sun damage and skin cancer. Because of my melanoma, I wear sunscreen every single day, rain or shine, and I reapply it on top of that. When anyone asks me about my experience with melanoma, the two things I cannot emphasize enough are daily sunscreen usage and skin checks.

+Do you have more questions about melanoma and the best sunscreen for skin cancer survivors? Leave them below!