Why I'm Over Here Reapplying My Sunscreen

by Sarah Harris
Originally Published: 
shevtsovy / iStock

I couldn’t take my eyes off of you as you removed your sandals and cover-up before slipping into the pool. I knew I should look away; you couldn’t have been more than 17, and I was quickly becoming that creepy 35-year-old ogler. But I was mesmerized.

It wasn’t the perkiness of your boobs or that flat, tight stomach. It wasn’t your complete lack of love handles or thigh jiggle, though good on ya, girl. No, what caught my eye was unnatural, unnecessary, and it sent shivers down my spine.

Honey, you are way too tan.

I made a quick (and yes, judgmental) assessment of your skin tone based on your hair and eye color. You probably tan easily, but it was the first week of June and we’d had a sub-zero winter. There was not a tan line to be seen across your shoulders, back or legs. All signs pointed to pre-prom fake-n-bakin’.

I wanted to approach you. I wanted to take off my sun hat and show you my scar—the 2-inch long scar that will be my forever reminder to wear my SPF. The scar remains from the melon-ball sized lump of cancer-containing tissue I had removed from my forehead. Yes, my forehead. I didn’t even know there was that much tissue up there, but there was and it was full of skin cancer. Despite the fact that I have never used a tanning bed, I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma at 35. Had I been a fake-n-baker like so many of my friends in college, I’m confident it would have happened earlier. It may have been more serious. It may have been melanoma.

I wanted to approach you and quote some statistics on tanning bed use and skin cancer.*

I wanted to tell you that indoor tanning results in almost 420,000 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year.

I wanted you to know that tanning causes more cases of skin cancer than the number of cases of lung cancer caused by smoking.

I wanted to scream in your face that one tanning session in an indoor UV tanning bed increases the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67 percent. And if you go just a few more times, the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma increases by 73 percent.

Did you know that rate of incidence of melanoma among young adults has increased 800 percent in the last four decades?

Did you know that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer?

Did you know that 76 percent of cases of melanoma among 18 to 29-year-olds can be attributed to tanning bed use?

Did you know that your risk of developing melanoma increases by 75 percent if you have used a tanning bed before the age of 35?

Did you know that nearly 10,000 people will die from melanoma this year?

I wanted to approach you and beg you, on behalf of the children you don’t yet have but for whom you will want to become immortal: Stay the hell out of tanning beds.

I wanted to, but I didn’t. Instead I just stared. Then I conspicuously announced to my kids that it was time to reapply our sunscreen.

*Statistics are from

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