"I wasn't worried about it at all. I'd have a tan in 3 days if i went out in the sun." That's how Tina Bland describes herself a month ago. She grew up in that generation where sunbathing was the norm, unless you were lucky enough to have access to a tanning bed…. and she did.
"My mother owned a salon and she had tanning beds and I would go in whenever i got ready." she says.
Now, the mother of 3 teenagers, Tina says she never dreamed a recent trip to the dermatologist would be life changing.
Dr. Amy Brackeen spotted a small mole and asked how long it had been there. Tina says she told her " as long as I can remember, but it's getting darker and bigger."
Turns out those are 2 classic clues to melanoma!
The American College of Dermatology says remember ABCD:
If a mole is Asymmetrical, or had Borders that are irregular, Color changes, or a Diameter bigger than a pencil eraser, it could be melanoma, the deadliest kind of cancer... like Tina's 'forever mole' which was just below her knee. It's gone now. Dr. Brackeen removed it with a big chuck of skin around in case there were any lingering cancer cells.
Dr. Brackeen says, "I have a number of people who have tanned for years. They come in for a suspicious spot. We may find one spot and then when they stop tanning and their tan fades away, we find a number of early skin cancers that have been hiding underneath that tan."
That's why it is more timely than it seems to warn about melanoma in October. As cold weather comes and we all bundle up, we may not be watching for a new spot that shows up, or a mole that changes a little.
Tina says when she looks at the 3 inch scar on her leg, she is still shocked at how much Dr. Brackeen removed to protect against a little mole that became cancerous.
"I grew up in a tanning bed and I grew up going to the pool and the lake every summer", she says, adding that she never dreamed skin cancer would be a problem for her.
However, Dr. Brackeen is not surprised because of her history of tanning outside and indoors. She says, " By tanning in a tanning bed, you're increasing your risk of melanoma by 75%."
Today, the American Cancer Society says Melanoma is a diagnosis that comes in this country every 8 minutes.
Every year, it kills more than 9 thousand people.
Tina groans when she looks at her scar and says, "And now, I have to go back and have 2 other spots on this leg done when this heals!"
She says it's been a hard lesson to learn.
But now, even though she still enjoys being outside, she and her kids are never far from the sunscreen …and they look for the shade.
From now on, Tina has an appointment with Dr. Brackeen every 4 months for a full body skin cancer screening, something she says she will take seriously; "She scared me. Oh, when she started digging that out, she really scared me!"