Remember when you thought you knew it all? Odds are you learned the hard way that you were wrong. Given the chance to talk to the younger you, just think of all the wisdom you’d have to impart.
Dear 16-year-old me,
If the last piece of advice seems out of place, the viral video Dear 16-Year-Old Me deserves five minutes of your time. The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund launched this first-person narrative a year ago to promote awareness of melanoma, the most common and sometimes deadly form of cancer found in adults between the ages of 25 and 29.
"Our goal was to reach 5,000 people in the first month; by the end of the first week, we had over 1 million views," says Elyse Sunshine, a founding member of DCMF.
The video has now been viewed by over 6 million people in 150 countries, translated into five languages, praised by winning two Webby Awards, and credited by celebrities including Lauren Conrad, Cindy Crawford, and Reba McIntyre for changing their own sun protection habits.
The sad truth is we’ve become too cavalier about skin cancer. We find something suspicious, we remove it, and we move on. Yet as the video warns, melanoma isn’t like that: “It’s not just skin cancer. Well it is. But not just the cut-it-out-and-it’ll-be-fine kind. It’s the kind you have to catch before it spreads, because it spreads so fast. To places like your liver, your lungs, your brain.”
May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness month. But unlike other faux observances that litter the calendar (I’m looking at you, National Grilled Cheese Day!), this one should serve as your wake-up call to do a yearly mole and freckle inventory.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 76,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and if not found early, can be extremely dangerous and deadly. For women, moles in question tend to appear on legs, and for men, on the back; the cancer can also appear in the eye, mucous membranes, or even under the nail bed.
Doctors believe UV exposure, both from the sun and tanning beds, is the leading cause of melanoma. So is heredity. Those with a first-degree relative diagnosed have a 50 percent greater chance of developing a melanoma, as are those who’ve had basal or squamous cell carcinomas.
Want to keep your skin cancer-free? Pay attention to outlying moles that appear significantly different from the others surrounding it—especially if they hurt, bleed, or won’t heal. You can also use the alphabet to detect the following warning signs:
Asymmetry: Is one half unlike the other?
Border: Are there irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined edges?
Color: Is it varied with shades of tan, brown, black, white, red, or blue?
Diameter: Is it larger than a pencil eraser?
Evolving: Has the size, shape, or color changed since your last mole check?
Finally, it bears repeating: diligent sunscreen application is your best defense. Stick to broad spectrum products like L’Oreal Sublime Sun Liquid Sun Silk Sunshield for Face, Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunblock Spray, and Banana Boat Sport Performance Coolzone Sunscreen.