‘Why I regret all the years I spent sunbathing and tanning’

Jan 18, 2020
Janine spent a lot of time 'worshipping the sun' in her youth and it had dire consequences. Source: Getty Images

When I was a child we spent our family holidays by the beach. Back then I don’t know if there was such a thing as sunscreen because I don’t have any memories of my parents putting any on me. However, I do have memories of Mum cutting tomatoes and rubbing them on my sunburnt skin.

Then of course my teenage years were all about bikinis and boys. Whenever possible I would be at the beach laying on the sand burning myself to a crisp. I was not the only one … Back then if you had a tan you were considered healthy looking.

I have paid a big price for my parents ignorance and my own stupidity. We all tend to think we are invincible when we are young, then the reality of ageing and sun damage sets in.

I am one of many that has large cancer removal scars on my face. I don’t try and hide them and try not to stress about them. I still live my life, I only become a hermit during the extremely hot days of summer. The difference when I venture out these days is that I now wear suitable clothing and use sunscreen every day.

A neighbour had a small black shiny dot appear on her nose, it used to bother me a lot. She would say “It’s nothing, just a pin head”. She told me I worry too much, but the pin head grew and as much as I nagged her about it she left it too late and it was beyond the capabilities of her doctor. It turned out to be malignant. Three surgeries followed and she ended up with a very noticeable hole in her nose. Having facial scars myself from melanoma I feel for her.

I now use sunscreen on my nose and face every day. I am aware it’s too little too late, the horse has well and truly bolted, but my neighbour’s battle was a wake up call, so hopefully my efforts will save my nose.

Rarely a day goes by when I don’t see that white surgical covering on an arm or leg of a passerby. It always gives me a little chill. Those coverings are familiar to a lot of us.

More than 12,000 people are being diagnosed with melanoma every year. I don’t understand that because we now live with a varied and plentiful choice of sun protection. Also the media campaigns about being sun aware are constant.

It’s scary to think that with all the knowledge we have gained over the years some people are still putting themselves at risk worshipping the sun and choosing to ignore all of the advice.

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Did you sunbathe and tan in your youth? Have you had any issues with skin cancer?

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