What Should I Say to the 16-Year-Old You?

March 29, 2012 · 86 comments

Colleen just absolutely made my week. Did you hear the news?

Everyone in my life is going to be so excited I will soon have an arsenal of new Anchorman quotes. I guess some people feel 8 years of daily Anchorman 1 quotes is too much.

I’m not one of those people.

Okay, switching gears now. I just had to get that excitement off my chest.

If you recall, when I first was diagnosed with melanoma, I posted this old video and asked you all to watch it start to finish.

I admitted this scared me to tears when I watched it after my diagnosis. Eesh.

In my ordeal, I was lucky. My melanoma was caught early. It wasn’t too deep, and they were confident they could dig it all out. My two surgeries, in the grand scheme of things, were an inconvenience rather than a life-crippling event.

I was upset I couldn’t run. I’ve had a major setback on my nutrition plan. I couldn’t finish my training for my half marathon in which I really, really wanted to PR. A lot of people roll their eyes at my being upset over this and say “Uh, you can do that next year.” I then get all fired up and say “Meerrrp, wrong. It actually was my last chance, because next year I’ll be in the higher badass young-mommy age group and it’ll be a lot harder to do something impressive, I’m mad, life sucks, I miss being in shape, yadda yadda boo-hoo.”

Again, this was all upsetting to me, but looking at the big picture, this was only an inconvenience. My biggest problems are that I couldn’t PR, I had an allergic reaction to the Neosporin, I’m itchy, I have ugly bandages, and I have ugly scars.

Cry me a river, right? As far as I know, my problem has been solved. This is not the case for everyone who will be diagnosed with melanoma. And as I’ve told you all before, I want to prevent this (or worse) from happening to as many people as I can. I want people to get out of the tanning bed for good and start using sunscreen (AND REAPPLYING!) on the reg.

I proposed a program to my boss. It’s prom season, and I am seeing more and more girls with that overly-tanned, leathery skin walking the hallways. They all think they’re invincible, I’m sure, because “they check themselves.” They don’t realize that every time they lay in the tanning bed they increase their risk of skin cancer by 75%.

Here’s where I want your input. On Monday, I will be a part of an assembly for the high school. We’ll be showing a different skin cancer video, the video above (the Dear 16 Year Old Me, not the Anchorman announcement… although that would probably go over even better), and I will be given a few minutes to tell my story and convince them of the precautions they need to be taking for their skin and their health.

If you were a 16 year old in that audience before me, what could I say that would make the biggest impression on you? What would make you stop tanning as a self-absorbed high schooler?

Anything goes here; I want to hear all your suggestions. I’m also not above showing my scars from the stage. If it takes that to save these kids from melanoma, I’m all for it.

Aaaaand….. go.

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{ 64 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Katy @ HaveYouHurd March 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

I think the biggest thing that hit home with me with your story Alyssa was that 1) you didn’t really go to the tanning bed THAT much (only for ‘events’ such as prom or a wedding or something) and 2) you had no OBVIOUS signs of anything wrong. I think as a young girl I thought, “well I’m not going everyday and if I don’t have a big blue and purple mole that changes form every 5 seconds, then I’m good to go.”

Also, make sure you give them other options (lotions, spray tanning).

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2 Becca March 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

First off I def should say thank you, after you posted your first post I went straight to my dermatologist (within days) and they found a mole that had to be removed.. Waiting the the results to come back was horrible! But I was so glad I went ๐Ÿ™‚ without your post it would not have crossed my mind..
In regards to the students, I would def show the video, and if you don’t care show them your scares! I think that it will help that you are SO young.. I am sure they can relate to you so much more than someone in their 60’s telling the same story. This is a FANTASTIC thing you are doing.
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3 Krista @ A Belle in DC March 29, 2012 at 11:17 am

I think showing them scars would be an important part if you’re willing. Let’s face it- they’re tanning for vanity and so using vanity against them would probably be an effective weapon especially because you’re so young yourself. Growing up, I always heard tanning could give you skin cancer and certainly more wrinkles, but in my 16 year old mind, that’s something you got in your 50s or 60s, certainly not your 20s. I think that makes it a little more real for them.
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4 Shannon March 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

I definitely think your video and story will hit home, especially right before prom season. Also think about ways to encourage alternatives…jergens lotion, spray tans, mystic tans, etc. No UV but a cute result for a special day like prom. The girls just want to look pretty, and a 1 time spray tan can definitely help boost their self esteem.


5 Kelly @ Running Kellometers March 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

This video made me cry. Such an important message! I think that you are doing an amazing thing getting out there and talking to the kids about the dangers of skin cancer!

One way to relate is maybe show how awesome a spray tan can be? The color looks the same and how much your skin will appreciate it. Plus the costs can be similar if you find the right place, etc. I am a huge fan of the spray tan. If the kids are into tanning, maybe it is best to show them a healthier way to get the same appearance? Just a suggestion. Best of luck and I can’t wait to hear all about it!!
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6 Yellow Haired Girl March 29, 2012 at 11:26 am

I think if you show them scars, that will hit home. A lot of these girls are hitting the tanning bed because they’re vain and obsessed with having that idealistic beauty. Well, I can almost guarantee they’d rather be pale than have a scar. Am I right? I think this will be an awesome opportunity … for you, and for them … kids need a reality check. I know I didn’t take it seriously enough until I learned your story.

Also – I am a (more serious) Anchorman. I work in the media. This news completes my life.
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7 Krissie J March 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

Malignant melanoma is not a joke at all. I’ve read blogs and emails from adults on drug trials that have been diagnosed with late stage melanoma and it is heart wrenching and a horrible way to die. It’s not just your skin that is affected, it spreads to every organ in the body, including the brain. People are given months to live. Not years, months. Some people on the trials have been as young as 23. Can you imagine being just out of college and told you have months to live? I don’t think anyone realizes that. There is no cure if left unchecked. None at all.


8 Sarah @BlondeBostonian March 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

I think this a fabulous idea. It’s something that I think most high school girls don’t think about when they decide to get their pre-prom glow (I know I didn’t). Hearing it from a young woman who you probably would never guess had cancer most likely will hit them hard. I saw that video and it hit home for me, and I’m way out of high school and barely tan.
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9 Lauren March 29, 2012 at 11:29 am

I do research re: modification of health behaviors. While most of my research has revolved around smoking cessation, it is pretty common knowledge that the potential of disease is not a deterrent, only the potential SIDE EFFECTS of the disease are. For example, people know that they are likely to have lung cancer if they are a smoker but will not modify their behaviors unless they understand the horrors of life with lung cancer.

Studies show that adolescents tan to: be more attractive, because their parents permit it/tan themselves, to appear thinner, and because it’s relaxing. There have been talks of promoting advertising campaigns mocking the “orange look” of high school girls who tan to dissuade girls from tanning beds. The anti-tanning campaign tends to take on very similar methodology to the anti-smoking campaign since the target age groups are the same.

If you’re really interested in some of the academic work about adolescent tanning and behaviors, check out research by Deann Lazovich. She focuses more on behavioral change through policy but it’s interesting work.


10 Tony Muckleroy March 29, 2012 at 11:31 am

As a Dad with two girls (17 and 18) I simply tell them what they are and are not going to do. A tanning bed is one of those things they won’t do. It’s not what you think. I can and do put my foot down but the majority of the time I explain things to them so they can hopefully understand why I limit them to the things they do. My wife, originally from Mexico, is fare complected but not as much as me. I’m not white I’M PINK! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I burn if I am in the Sun for fifteen minutes.

My 18 year old daughter takes after her Mom and doesn’t burn easily, my 17 year old takes after me. She’s the one I have to batter verbally about putting on sun block (not screen). I think that it is VERY important that parent(s) take a stand and make your children do what is the right thing. Make sure your kids like who they are and perhaps they won’t feel the need to change their external appearance to the detriment of their health.

You were far too young to have to go through this and learn all too soon that you are not invincible. My sincerest well wishes to you for a full, and complete recovery. Also I hope this is your only run in with cancer during your life.


11 Emily March 29, 2012 at 11:35 am

Maybe you should make your own “Dear 24 year old me” video, insipred by the “Dear 16 year old me”, and incorporate it in your speech, the students can see that it can happen to you at ANY age (this would be a good way to show your pics of before and after).

Also, the tanning salon I used to go to had all these signs in the rooms that say “Why tan 365 days a year? To get Vitamin D 365 days a year!” … that’s the only way they think they can coerce you into tanning… to get vitamin D??!!? Take a supplement! Tell them not to fall for their advertisments, because the outcome is not always so pretty.

I have my dermatology appt scheduled for April 16th (I’ve only seen a derm doctor like twice in my life) and I can’t tell you how nervous/anxious I am, mostly because I can almost guarantee you that I will have AT LEAT 2-3 spots removed. There is one spot on my thigh that randomly appeared about 2 years ago when I was tanning on the reg for my friend’s wedding, and it kept getting bigger. I just told myself that if it was irregular, it would have a dark spot in the middle, which to this day, it still does not. BUT… not all suspicious looking spots do! Maybe if I had listened to my Mom, my Grandma, etc… I wouldn’t be having this issue now.


12 Lindsey @ Happy or Hungry March 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

I am absolutely with Katy in the first comment. That’s what really hit home for me too, you rarely went to the tanning bed, and your moles weren’t scary or even weird looking. And also, you tan easily like me! I always thought it happened to people with fair skin…not tan savvy minxes like ourselves. Lesson learned. And yeah, I’d show your scars. Other than that, I’m not really sure what you can say. Teens all know smoking is terrible for you, but they do it anyway. They have to make their own decisions and learn things on their own, ya know?
Good luck, and that’s awesome you’re doing that!

On a skin cancer unrelated note, I’d like to tell 16-year-olds now that being cool is not the most important thing in the world. Be yourself. People like it.
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13 Keaghan March 29, 2012 at 11:36 am

I think what you’re doing is amazing! I am from a small town (in Canada!) and tanning for some reason, was HUGE when I was in high school! All the girls tanned multiple times a week and went overboard on it when it was prom. One girl in particular, her dad owned the tanning salon in my town. She would actually brag about how often she went (5 times a week..) and eventually her dad “banned” her from going. Her skin looked like leather, she had age spots, she was wrinkly and worst of all, her skin started to change colour. She was so tan but she had white patches all over. I was so tempted to go to the tanning beds before, since it was the “cool” thing to do, but when I saw these patches, I was terrified! To hear someone’s story is one thing, but to SEE the effects is another. Maybe show them pictures of your stitches and pictures of girls who’s skin is similar to the girls I wrote about?


14 Courtney March 29, 2012 at 11:41 am

It’s so great that you are willing to put your story out there to help these girls. I think the thing that hit closest to home for me is how young you are. At 16, I’m sure 24 doesn’t seem nearly as far away as 50 or 60. I’m 22 and it really scared me when I read about what you were going through. I’ve never been a bed tanner but I’ve been known to get really bad burns at the beach and I’m going to protect myself even better this summer because of what you went through. Kids think they are invincible, so showing them that they actually aren’t would be really effective.
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15 Meghan March 29, 2012 at 11:42 am

This may be a bit tough on the age group you are working with, but how about a slideshow of pictures of young people their age who have had this? It’s one thing to know you have had to deal with this, but in their mind you may be the exception, not the rule. Showing them that there are MANY young girls affected by this might have more. I’ve seen something similar done with bullying and I know it had a big impact on a lot on college age students.

Thanks for turning your negative experience into a platform for educating others, very admirable.


16 Andrea @ Andrea Out Loud! March 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

i think that is awesome alyssa! Im glad you get to do that. I think they are more likely to listen to you over some other instances out there because you are young and gorgeous (as vain as that sounds, that is something from a 16 yr old girl’s prospective that like, means a lot ya know? haha).
I read some of the above suggestions and really liked them! – i liked the idea of getting a spray tan and being like “SEE it looks just as good and its safe.” because lets face it, they still want to be tan and when I was 16 I was stubborn and going to get what I wanted (I sound like a brat) but if there was a safer alternative, I def would have gone that route.
So giving alternatives would be a big help along with possibly showing your scars since vanity is one of the main issues that will hit home.
Good luck and i hope it helps! I have my (first ever) derm apt next week for a check and I have to admit Im a little scared!
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17 Lexie March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

So I struggle a lot with tanning issue. I definitely think tanning has addictive qualities. I read an article about how the UV rays release a chemical in your brain that is super addicting. Not to mention the self esteem boost that it gives me. I’ve tanned on and off since college. I mostly only stopped for financial reasons. And now I go to a gym that has free tanning and I find myself going every time I work out. And this is after reading ALL of your posts about skin cancer.

I think suggesting other ways to get that self esteem boost is important. I know that if I was as in shape as you are, I wouldn’t feel nearly as self conscious about being pale. And you know, it might speak to people if you come at it from a financial angle. How many designer hand bags could I own right now if I didn’t waste so much money tanning in college? I was paying $60 a month!

I should add that I’m really glad you’re doing ok, Alyssa. You’re a champ.
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18 Megan S. March 29, 2012 at 11:48 am

I think we, especially as teenagers, have the mentality that we’re invincible and,”it won’t happen to me”. Sharing stories or pictures of people that were there age that may have had to go though something like yourself could be more realistic to them. I don’t think it ever catches their attention unless it’s someone their age — then they may start to think “wow, she/he is as young as I am…”


19 yogger March 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

Anchorman 2! I wonder if he and Veronica kept up with their yogging.

As far as the assembly, you’re probably still young enough to know that it is going to be very, very difficult to have an impact on these kids. Childhood for most is an endless barrage of adults trying to scare you into not doing something. That angle has been overdone to death and the kids are completely desensitized to it. At 16 you’re vain, invincible, just getting a taste of freedom and you don’t want to hear it anymore. I’d recommend actually trying to give them some simple, non-scare oriented bits of retainable information. Provide realistic numbers on their actual risk, be honest about your experiences but also admit the difference in seriousness between non-melanoma skin cancer and other types, focus on how to identify problem moles and suggest the easiest, most convenient, most rememberable safeguards they can take to reduce their risk.
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20 Jennifer March 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

I love Emily’s idea of a video “Dear 24 year old me”! I too was diagnosed with melanoma at age 24. I’m now 28 and have two huge scars on my stomach to show for it and many other small ones. I’m sure they will look lovely when I’m pregnant and my belly has stretched 2 feet out. Definitely show them your scars if you’re comfortable. I would show/tell them all the other options to for getting a tan. When I was in high school spray tanning was not an option, but now it looks great. The lotions also do wonders. I have used many different lotions and majority of them turn out awesome. I can say that I did this to myself. I was an avid tanner and even worked at a tanning salon my first two years of college. I also worked outdoors all through high school and college and would never wear sunscreen. You always think it won’t happen to you, but it can.


21 Sierra March 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

You are inspiring! Seeing a young, beautiful girl standing up there will speak louder than anything. Seeing someone close to you is an eye-opener. Maybe make light of it and show some of your fake sunless tanning products, like a comparison…self-tanner vs risk?
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22 Kate @ The Little Spoon Blog March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

I believe that your initial plan may be to scare them out of tanning but I think you should also focus on alternatives. It may end up being LESS expensive to buy self tanner and a spray tan. It’s one thin to tell them how bad fake baking is, it’s another thing entirely to give them SMART alternatives. Maybe a slide on costs… Be completely open wih them…. Tanning, cost of doctor visit bills, multiple surgery bills, hospital bills etc. vs buying a lotion or spray tan session. Just a thought.
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23 Caryln March 29, 2012 at 11:57 am

When I heard your story it really got me to thinking about why I have ever tanned in the past. I did it (and I think most girls do it for this reason) because I thought it made me look “prettier and more healthy”. It’s really a confidence thing girls need to work on. We need to fry my skin to look or feel more beautiful. Its stupid. I was in a friends wedding recently and decided to take a personal pastey pact (no.. Not those kind of pasties). All the other bridesmaids tanned and you know what, when I look back on those pics I don’t think I look any different then I would if I would have tanned. Sure… I would have not had legs that could blind u, but that doesnt make me look sick or ugly. It makes me real.


24 Sarah OUaL March 29, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Since it’s been determined that I gave you the skin cancer, I feel compelled to chime in. As a means of repayment, since you undid your rude sharing of cures to the tight calves twinsness.

What about like a before/after side-by-side fake tan picture? To prove they won’t be orange and streaky and they can safely get their “most important night of my life” glow without hating themselves in 10 years? And then be all, see? I use it, and I’m awesome. Be awesome like me. And SarahOUaL likes it, too.
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25 Elizabeth @ Chocolate Drops and Pearls March 29, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I think that it’s really great what you are doing Alyssa. You should isolate some of the students using a percentage… I’m not sure what the percentage of people that get skin cancer but let’s say it’s 25%. Go through a row or two and pick 1 our of every 4 kids. I think when you direct it to them specifically it will hit home.

For example in my highschool we had an assembly about drinking and driving. They would have a mysterious “grim reaper” take girls out of classes for a few minutes to show how many people are killed from drunk driving. You could do something with skin cancer. Just a thought.

I also really like the video I think it will hit home. Showing your scars would be good too. You could even show them some of your prom pictures with your story to make it a little more relatable.
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26 Shannon March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Way to go, Alyssa. I think it’s so awesome that you’re going to be speaking to the students about this. The thing is, 16 year olds think they know everything (c’mon, we were all there once). Telling your story is great but I think maybe showing pictures of pale celebrities might be a good way to go. Tan doesn’t equal pretty.
Also, maybe the scare factor is a good way to go? Keep on the celebrity line, with how many have been diagnosed and dealt with melanoma.
You should be really proud of yourself for making an impact. Even if just one student follows your advice, that’s STILL one person :).
And I was over the moon when I heard about the Anchorman sequel. It’s going to be RAD!!!
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27 Jaime D. March 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm

To be honest, just sharing your story should be enough for most of them. The same week that I read your initial melanoma post (found it via Julie’s blog), I made an appointment to do a skin cancer screening with a dermatologist. I am 28 years old and had never done one before. I think if the kids hear that you had always been cautious in the sun, you never did THAT much tanning in tanning beds and you didn’t have any sketchy looking moles on your body, they may think twice. Hearing first hand perspective from someone you personally know always makes an impact…no matter how old they are.


28 Kate March 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I think just once they see how young you are, it’ll be a big impact. I think most kids know that the dangerous stuff they do will eventually take its toll, but it’s gotta be powerful to realize how quickly it could catch up to them. I think maybe emphasize the things you missed out on and try and point out what they could miss out on too. Like, if they got skin cancer in college they might be set back a semester or more. I don’t know. That’s a toughie. Just getting out there and talking is a really good thing though.
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29 Lily March 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I would totally just say that its not worth it to be tan for than one week because there are so many risks. If you live in a place where you actually experience winter, then your not the only one who isn’t tan so you look weird when you are. at least try to convince girls that, if fake tanning at all, to get a spray tan because that cuts the risk of exposure. i’m 17 and for me just hearing a story from someone so young like you would resonate with me more than someone who is a lot older than me


30 Danica @ GirlsThatRun March 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I would say everything you said in your original posts on the topic about how you didn’t tan regularly and how you didn’t have big scary abnormal looking moles. I think in order to appeal to the more invincible “it’ll never happen to me” shallow side of a 16 year old girls mind, you should also ask them if they’d rather be a little pale for prom or have to live with big scars on their arms/legs/chest/back – even face! – for the rest of their life.

Or just remind them that Edward Cullen likes pale girls.
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31 Julie March 29, 2012 at 12:50 pm

For teenagers, going for the scare-tactic always seems to have a greater impact than just telling a story (I’ve found anyway). I would add in some graphics with your story, just to illustrate how incredibly dangerous tanning is. It’s important for kids to realize that they need to think long-term with regard to their skin/body/beauty. What may be awesome today, isn’t worth it in the long run when you have a chance of being unhappy with your self for the rest of your life. Ya know?


32 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots March 29, 2012 at 12:52 pm

after you posted the video I went to my dermo and had him check me out, he found 2 moles on me that he thought I should get removed, he said he didn’t think they were cancerous but he thought they had the potential to become cancerous. He referred me to a plastic surgeon and I scheduled to get them removed and when he told me that I had to take off a week or 2 from physical activity I thought for a minute maybe I won’t do it and then I was more rational and told myself I can take off a week or 2, yes it may be annoying but I would rather be cancer free then be able to workout those 2 extra weeks.
Tell them it is just not worth it! I want to tell that to every single girl or guy I see walk into the tanning beds at my gym!


33 Bari March 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

My mom died in 1984 as a result of melanoma. I was 14 years old and my sister was 11. Mom never used tanning beds or laid out, but liked to garden and just be outside with her girls. I was stupid and even though I’m a freckly, fair skinned, never able to tan, redhead, I used tanning beds so I could get a few shades darker. Never TAN, just not Casper. It was dumb and I’ve greatly increased MY risk of developing melanoma. My twins are 14 now and my daughter talks all the time about needed to be tan. I plan to show her this video tonight. Then I plan to make an appointment with a dermatologist and start getting regular skin checks. I’ll also be wearing sunscreen for my half marathon this weekend – something I’ve never done before (wear sunscreen while running). Thank you for helping to get this message out.
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34 Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers March 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

The only thing that got me to quit tanning out of vanity was to replace it with a different (equally vain) reason to NOT tan. I quit tanning because I was scared I’d get wrinkly. I didn’t want to be a forty year-old prune. Who doesn’t want to be a hot mom? I guess wrinkles just seemed more likely than cancer, but ya’ never know. Hey, at least I’m honest!
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35 Kristen @ notsodomesticated March 29, 2012 at 1:27 pm

I discovered I had spots of skin cancer that had to be removed when I was 26. Like many others have said, it happens when you’re YOUNG … it’s not like you have to wait until you’re 70 to suddenly have to get surgery that will result in permanent scars. Thanks to tanning and skin cancer, I had a lovely scar on my back for my wedding day, so you could see it while I was in my wedding dress. Do they think that’s cute? I don’t think so.

So focusing on the fact that it’s something they’re going to have to worry about sooner rather than later. And like others have said, showing them your scars and being very honest would be beneficial. ๐Ÿ™‚
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36 Megan H March 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

I was actually diagnosed with skin cancer at 16. Not melanoma but basal cell carcinoma. It’s on my nose and I now have a scar on my face to show for my lack of sunscreen use while playing on the golf team after school in high school. I really think showing pictures helps put things into perspective. You had tiny freckles/moles and all I had was a piece of dry skin that wouldn’t heal. These small things carry huge health problems and I think it helps younger people realize that they need to take better care of their skin starting at a young age. I think what you’re doing is great! It hits home when you see young people who have had skin cancer and shows it’s not just a disease for the oldies!


37 Easa March 29, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I guess photos mostly. Words are ignored by the 16 y/o brain. And your skills with blogging will come in handy during your search. Find the worst ones and keep them up for a long time to hammer in the visual point. Your words will be forgotten, but the risks will be communicated by the visual shock.


38 Lindsey March 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Your story and the video should definitely help convince the girls that tanning isn’t worth it. Maybe you could give them tips for self-tanning lotions that they can use instead? I really like the Jergen’s Natural Glow or Neutrogena sunless tanner spray. Also, I just wanted to thank you for encouraging your readers to get a skin check. I made an appointment yesterday and will be going to see the doc in April. ๐Ÿ™‚


39 Georgia @ Trying Something New March 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I agree with what most people have said. At 16, I definitely thought I was invincible, so tell them that! Tell them that they are not invincible, and that if it can happen to you, it can happen to them. Show them your scars, prove to them that it’s not worth it. But also give them options, like the best tanning lotions, etc. You are an inspiration, and they will definitely listen to you if you relate to them.
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40 Taylor @ Nuts for Apples March 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I think more true stories about it, the more convincing. When i was 10 & 15, I had to get moles removed and thankfully I did because they were found to be pre-cancerous. Hearing those words when I was 10 definitely scared the sh*t out of me but definitely made me more aware of skin cancer…unfortunately I did tan before high school prom…But after hearing your story, that video, & other stories, I’m so much more conscious now/borderline paranoid about it…I think it’s more effective if high schoolers actually hear from real people how it IS real and WILL happen if they’re not careful!


41 Caroline March 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Hi Alyssa,
I’m 19 years old, and although I am naturally very very very light skinned, with freckles, I have never gotten in a tanning bed. My upset behind tanning beds (and cigarettes for that matter) is that people are literally making the choice to get cancer. I watched my mom battle breast cancer when I was in middle school, and it honestly disgusts me when girls eagerly jump into tanning beds, saying things like, “At least I’ll look good.”
It’s sad to me that people don’t realize how shallow it is to think that way, and how insulting it is when they treat cancer so lightly. I’m happy your sharing this video with everyone, and I think the best way to do it is just to be honest, and let them know that it is out there, and you really shouldn’t think your invincible.


42 Kace March 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

One of my best friends just went through the same thing, only it was on her forehead. She is one of the palest people I know; she uses lotion and never once stepped foot in a tanning bed and it STILL happened to her.

You could always look up pictures of what your skin looks like underneath due to sundamage…do those exist? Am I thinking of the right thing? Shock tactics seem to work best…. here’s some lesson plans I googled for you; may include some talking points or activities you can do?: http://www.americanskin.org/education/the_skin_youre_in/pdf/teaching_guide.pdf
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43 Erika March 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Ok, you had me at anchorman…i love that movie and am stoked to hear the exciting news!
I didn’t read all of the comments, so I’m sure I’m repeating someone. I would show up with a cute spray tan (make sure to get it 2 days before you go in). They can see how great it is without the risk.
Make sure to show them after pics of skin as adults. I bet those who tanned young have older looking skin than those who didn’t.
I’m super pale and I always get a compliment when my skin looks like it’s been in the sun. People definitely associate tan with beauty. Not really a good thing.
Above all, your story will be effective just by you being honest with them. Ask them a lot of questions. Get to know them and where they are coming from. Why do they tan, etc. Why do they think it’s important.
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44 Emily @ Glitz Glam Granola March 29, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Thank you for supporting such an important cause. Like in the video, a close friend of ours was recently diagnosed with ocular melanoma that has metastasized to her liver. The more people that can prevent this the better. I think the girls need to realize that you weren’t a regular tanner- so many girls went in high school and college just for important events. Plus, I think the truth is that you need to scare them a little bit- tell them how serious this can be for them! And that it’s not worth it and with spray tan or self tanners you can achieve the same look!
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45 Cristina March 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for some time but haven’t commented until now. First I want to thank you for your fantastic running tips. At 27 I’m trying to become a better runner and you’re def helping me!

I’m a high school teacher and at 16, girls (and guys) are most likely going to hear only what they can’t do….can’t go tanning for prom, can’t go to the beach, can’t lay out, etcetera. As others have mentioned I’d def give them options of what they can do. Don’t go to a tanning salon for prom, but save that money and buy a really good (possibly expensive) self tanner and bronzer. Possibly try a spray tan (a few weeks before prom so they know how their skin will react to it) Go to the beach and lay out but rock a floppy hat like those celebs, but clearly wear sunscreen.
Since being tan is so closely associated with beauty and being thin, maybe find some pictures of celebs and others in the public eye who are pale to point out they are just as famous as their tan counterparts. Quotes against tanning will help too!
I’m sure if you’re real with them they might surprise you. I am surprised everyday.

Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚


46 Sabrina @ Customized Creations March 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm

First, I want to say how strong you are for talking about this. It can never be stressed enough just important sunscreen is. So thank you!

Second, I too am ridiculously excited about the new Anchorman. I LOVE Anchorman. I’m foreseeing a date night to the movies with the hubby for this one. LOL!
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47 Melissa March 29, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I think one of the main points to make like others have said is that you didn’t go to the tanning bed THAT much! And also that one of your areas looked like any other normal mole. Those two things are definitely what convinced me to go get my first skin check, so thank you! Your story alone should do it, good luck!


48 Angela March 29, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Wow, everyone’s suggestions so far are great! Just to reiterate, I definitely would show a giant picture of your scars to them. Assemblies with visuals always had a huge impact on me when I was in high school. Scars don’t really complement a prom dress, do they?

You’re such an inspiration, Alyssa. Even though I haven’t stepped foot in a tanning bed in months, it’s still such a struggle for me. I get very self conscious about my appearance and I ALWAYS feel better when I have some color. It’s funny…I was just thinking about how I was going to say “screw it” and go tanning tomorrow, so that I would feel better. And then I come home and see your post, and get the reminder that I need.

You’ve made an impact on so many of your readers. I’m sure you’ll be able to do the same with these young girls!


49 Katie March 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

This is awesome. I am so inspired by your strength and now you are taking it to the next level and helping others! I was totally the sixteen year old girl going tanning before prom but your messages have definitely touched my heart and inspired me! Keep on rocking it, even if you change one girl’s opinion that will make a world of a difference!

Spray tan is all the fun with none of the damage aaaaand it can cost less too!!!


50 Jasmine March 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Being 19, I obviously remember high school very well. As for 16 year olds now, I think you have to make it a simple explanation and make it dramatic. Saying something along the line of, you could suffer serious consequences RIGHT NOW will scare them. They’ve always been fed with staying away from cigarettes, because one day in the far off future, they’ll get lung cancer. However, with this issue, they can get it tomorrow, next year, in 3 years, whatever.


51 Jasmine March 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm
52 kalley March 30, 2012 at 12:23 am

Maybe you could play a ‘game’ with them… show them pictures of yourself and make them guess which ones were real tan, and which ones were spray tans – and if they see there is virtually no difference it might help them push passed the whole “if I spray tan I’ll turn orange” thing.

I had skin cancer last year at age 24, also – basal cell carcinoma, which is even less noticeable than melanoma. In my case, it was a flesh colored bump by my eye that I had for YEARS and was told by multiple doctors that it was nothing prior to going to a dermatologist.

Good news is, it’s also less dangerous – but can be way more invasive of a procedure to remove it. here is an article in women’s health about basal cell, which is terrifyingly common. I’m willing to bet those 16 year old gals have no idea there are different kinds of skin cancer.

At the very least I would strongly encourage them to do regular check ups with a DERMATOLOGIST. Not a regular doctor.


If you need more ‘scar’ pictures, I’d actually be happy to send you mine. Mine was removed right next to my eye on the bridge of my nose. Talk about vanity ๐Ÿ™‚

Kudos to you for getting the word out there!


53 heather b. March 30, 2012 at 3:47 am

Oy. Where do I start? I will give it more thought, but a few thoughts for now. My little sis battled stage 3 melanoma two years ago. Let students know they do not have to be fair-skinned. My sister has dark brown hair, brown eyes, and is not fair. Also, she didn’t spend much time in a tanning bed. None as a teen, that I can recall, but did some part of a couple of years living in Denver. I do think showing scars can be effective b/c it’s a real visual and words don’t always impact people as much. If you want scar pix, I’m sure my sis would be happy to send one of the back of her calf where a huge chunk was taken out. And the long scar below her panty line where lymph nodes were taken out. Try appealing to their vanity. She also had beautiful long, thick hair that is still darling, but still barely a bob after completing biochemo 18 months ago. She had had long hair for over 20 years. And if they are unfortunate to get melanoma and it be of a certain size, they will need a sentinel lymph node biopsy . . . and likely treatment if any is found elsewhere. Her recommended treatment (and she is Denver at one of the best clinics in the country) was biochemo. And let’s just say it’s probably one of the worst chemos to endure. You stay in the hospital for 5 days at a time while hooked to the biochemo drugs . . . and most do this for four cycles total.


54 RunningWatchReview March 30, 2012 at 7:09 am

A tanning bed is definitely not a good idea for young girls like you. In regards to the students, I would definitely show them the video, and if fine with you, you can also show them your scares! It will help a lot of young woman like you and the fact that you are so young, I sure it would help… This is a FANTASTIC thing you are planning to do.


55 Kim March 30, 2012 at 11:00 am

I would definitely mention that it doesn’t just effect people who tan ALL THE TIME, that just going to a tanning bed every once in awhile can still have a detrimental effect. I would also tell myself that when I am 40 or 50 and having to get procedures done to try and get my “old” skin back – I will regret my choices.
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56 Chelsea March 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I think it’s your personal story which got to me. I wish you could travel around doing this so much more often because you have no idea how many girls (including myself) need to hear this story. The story of how much care you took of your skin outside, but you were just replacing that care when you layed down in the tanning bed. You changed my mind and perspective completely about tanning beds with your story, your pictures, and your honesty. Plus you’re such a happy, caring, and exciting person it broke my heart to hear/read what you were going through. I believe that you’ll be able to get to these girls, but I just hope that they take it to heart despite prom season.

Maybe give other suggestions such as spray tanning or St Tropaz? That way they can still get their tan without skin cancer. I know I was at my tannest EVER during prom season and it was because tanning beds…


57 Lily March 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Also, I edit the newspaper at my high school and we just recently wrote an article about the dangers of tanning! Thought you might like to check it out!



58 Kalyn March 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I just wanted to let you know that your story made an impact on me. As a self-confessed tanning-bed addict, I am happy to say that you inspired me to give up (cold turkey!) the tanning bed and schedule an appointment to get my skin checked out. Just a little thank you ๐Ÿ™‚


59 Bethany @ Accidental Intentions March 31, 2012 at 11:53 am

I think the fact that you’re only 24 will have a huge impact on the high schoolers you’re going to talk to. It’s so easy when you’re young to convince yourself that you’re invincible (which I, at 21, still totally do). Cancer doesn’t really care how old you are, though. I don’t know if you’re going for this angle, but it might not hurt to bring up a little bit about loving yourself as you are. I’ve got a pretty fair complexion, and in middle and high school it would really upset me when all the popular people would come back from Spring Break in Florida and/or Alabama and be SO tan while I was still as pale as we all were before they left. It made me feel not cool. Looking back, though, I’m so glad I didn’t do anything to risk my health. Given the choice between looking like the popular people for a week or two and living to see age 30, I’d chose living to see age 30 any day. I’ve embraced the fact that I’ll never be tan, because staying cancer-free is so much more important to me than a temporarily attractive appearance (also, by not tanning, if we do all live to be 65, 70, whatever, guess who’s going to be the attractive, less-wrinkly one? Hooray for delayed gratification! Haha).

I also just wanted to say that I really appreciate how fired up you are about all of this. Everyone knows about skin cancer and what you should/shouldn’t do to make sure you don’t get it, but I feel like so often it goes in one ear and out the other. My paternal grandfather died 10 years before I was born because of melanoma, so it’s something that has always been on my radar, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. Thanks so much for your advocacy and passion about this ๐Ÿ™‚


60 Lauren March 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm

I definitely get this issue, as someone that once acted like an invincible high schooler (aaaand college girl, but who’s counting?). What got me most was that a good friend of my dad’s passed away from skin cancer…that spread to her brain. It wasn’t caught early enough and had already spread. She was a young mom with two babies at home. Totally healthy in every other respect. That’s the thing. Thank goodness you caught it early, but for some people, they don’t. There was no way that was ever worth it. Her kids won’t think so either. It may be hard to get 16 year olds to think about their future selves, future husbands, future children, even their families. But just the knowledge that this stuff can turn into more than just SKIN cancer, maybe that will get somebody.

Plus, they make really good fake tanners now!!!!


61 Sam @ Sam Bock Illustration & Design April 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

Sorry I am just catching up on blogs this week….anyway, skin cancer always hits home with me….my mom has had it removed something like 12 times (no joke) and has numerous scars, and her sister (my aunt) died when she was just 34 of melanoma. It is just SO not worth it.

Spray tan all the way! They are great now….except for the last few days when part of its clinging onto your toes for dear life and you have spotty orange feet….even THAT is totally worth it, though!!

Good luck! I think this is a wonderful idea….I could’ve used something like that back in high school for a wake up call.
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62 Katie April 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Lots of great comments above – honesty and being totally open are important. I work at a school and I cringe at all the girls tanning. I used to be one of them – on rare occassion. I am forcing myself to get used to sunscreen and definitely never tan on purpose now.

I would love if part of the message was – PALE CAN BE BEAUTIFUL TOO! I know a lot of them will still tan regardless, but I think it is important to emphasize that pale is okay. There are many beautiful pale women. This year’s Oscars were surprisingly nice to see!


63 Stephanie April 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm

I’ve got melanoma on the brain while online and I stumbled upon your blog. It’s always reassuring to know that someone else has gone through the same emotions as me. By no means is it reassuring to know that someone else has gone though melanoma though. I’m 26 years old and have had melanoma 3x. That’s three ugly scars that I like to call battle wounds. It’s not cute nor attractive, but they have make me a stronger person. Currently, as I type, I’m waiting for the phone ring. I’ve been waiting for biopsy results for about 3 weeks now (the pathologist has been out of the office, how convenient right?) it’s a process I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’ve been lucky too….all of mine have been caught super early and as some people like to say, “simply” cut out of my body. However, I don’t see anything simple about it. Thanks for sharing your story! It’s not easy to do, kudos to you!!! =)


64 Maleah Cole April 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I think all the suggestions are very good, but one thing that I loved that you did is you tried to show pictures of your melanoma before you had the surgery where you had arrows and circles around the spots because you couldn’t even tell. They looked exactly like freckles.


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