A Stitch in Time might save your life

The incision is 2mm deep and about 1 and a half inches long.

Most immigrants from Ireland will cite the weather as a major deterrent for not going back to live in the land of their birth. Growing up in a primarily rainy climate, and then emigrating to a country where the sun shines most of the time is a blissful experience; in the beginning.Yes, we all look great with a tan, I won’t deny it. I even feel healthier with a tan; but the truth is that the sun is doing damage to our skin and our skin is the largest organ in, or more correctly, on our bodies.

Three years ago an acquaintance, of Irish decent, died within two weeks of being diagnosed with skin cancer. The cancer had metastasized to major organs in his body. I attended the man’s wake with a tan. His widow told me to stop with the sun tanning and go for a full body skin cancer scan. I did.

Now, three years later, I realize the importance of these yearly screenings, especially for people of Irish heritage. I recently attended my annual skin cancer screening, mind you it was five months past the due date, and I am so glad I did.It took minutes for a nurse and the dermatologist to determine that one mole on the back of my left leg, just above my knee, was abnormal. There was no discussion, the surface of the mole was taken off and sent to a lab for further testing.

Of course I kept telling myself that it was nothing, this was just all precautionary. One week later the lab results were back, and I was called in to have the tissue removed down to the hair follicles. It was an “atypical” mole, which in lay man’s terms means that it could become cancerous, so the dermatologists recommend taking it out. Being nervous about the procedure, I decided to get a second opinion. “Get it removed,” was the advice given by the second dermatologist.

I’ve had more pleasant experiences, I have to say. The injection was the worst part of the procedure. I was dreading the down time, but was pleasantly surprised that there was none. I was doing everything I normally do on a daily basis the next day.

If you have fair skin and you freckle in the sunshine, do your body’s largest organ a favor; wear a high sun protection factor when you are exposed to the sun. The dermatologist told me that this mole was not from my sun worshipping days of last year, or the year before; it was from almost twenty years ago, more than likely, he said. That’s around about the time I left Ireland and came to live in a sunny climate.

The second biggest favor that people of Irish origin should do is to make sure that their eyes are also checked for freckles growing in the eye-ball. Yes, I have a freckle growing near the left iris. Every two years, when I get my eye sight tested, it is measured and mapped to make sure that it is not growing or changing.

Talk to your dermatologists and eye doctors about these issues. Living in warm climates is enjoyable, but fair-skinned people are at higher risk for skin cancer. Make these your new years’ resolutions for 2012. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2012.

My right eye

Freckle behind the eye

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