‘The only way to have a safe tan is a spray tan’ - Skin cancer survivor advocates for sun safety year-round

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 6:16 PM CDT
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WATERLOO, Iowa (KCRG) - It’s no secret that summer weather can cause many different health risks like heat exhaustion or dehydration. But some health risks, like skin damage from sun exposure, may not present themselves until years later in life.

That’s why skin cancer survivor, Jennifer Schultz, is sharing her story.

She was first diagnosed with Melanoma in January of 2015. And she’s had skin cancer four more times since then.

“All skin damage is cumulative. So even if you don’t burn, your DNA remembers that and it automatically, your skin holds on to that,” said Schultz.

As she continues to get skin tests done every three months, she’s currently cancer free, and proudly dons the title of Melanoma Educator.

That’s something Dr. Michelle Craig with MercyOne Medical Center in Waterloo aims to be for her patients as well.

“Skin cancer is prevented by skin protection when you’re young. So it’s the sun damage you’re getting when you’re younger that is important,” said Dr. Craig.

She sees patients of all ages with varying types of sun damage, but the reaction among a certain group is always the same.

“If you ask a lot of my older patients if they could go back in time, they probably would have been a lot more cautious,” said Dr. Craig.

While she says the majority of her patients recognize the health risks at some point in her life, the issue is that it’s often times too late.

According to the CDC, Iowa has one of the highest melanoma rates in the country with 32 new cases per 100,000.

“I think a lot of us, when we’re younger, have that idea that, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ So people, as we get older, lots of times they are starting to see their skin change,” said Dr. Craig.

That’s why survivors, like Schultz, are making it a point to share their stories nationally. And advocating to add annual skin checks under health care plans.

“I’ve spoken on Capital Hill to law makers about trying to get more funding, even, for melanoma research, so I think that having that covered in an annual exam would be a really big and helpful piece in that,” said Schultz.

In order to get the best skin test, medical officials suggest making an appointment with a local, board-certified dermatologist.

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