Two locals share the importance of sun protection to prevent Melanoma and other skin cancers

by Molly Day Auman

Growing up not far from downtown Prescott in the 70s, you would find my close friend Beth Mull and I outside playing with the neighbor kids whenever we could catch a game of kick the can or ride our bikes.

In the 80s — our teen years — it became more about appearance and tanning. We spent many summer hours on the back deck of Beth’s house, overlooking the creek, slathering on the baby oil and baking our skin in the sun. We knew that, eventually, our sunburns would turn into a tan. … or at least what we considered a healthy glow.

What we didn’t know: all that sun exposure earned us membership in a club we had no intention of joining. In our early 50s, we were both diagnosed with Melanoma.

During a routine dermatology visit in November 2021, Beth had a small spot removed from her face. Within two weeks, she received the news that it was Melanoma, and had surgery to remove all possible margins from her cheek.

This spurred me to make an appointment to have my own skin checked, as I hadn’t been to the dermatologist in at least 20 years. I, too, had a small spot removed (from my forearm). Biopsy results confirmed it was Melanoma, and I had a surgery to remove all possible margins.

While there are many different types of skin cancer, Melanoma is the deadliest. Fortunately, if a doctor finds it early enough and removes it, life can go on as normal (albeit with sometimes-hefty scars to share and a lifelong relationship with sun protection).

We are lucky that we have a wonderful Nurse Practitioner at our dermatologist’s office who has an eye for noticing these spots. Beth and I now visit with her several times each year. Neither of us have a family history of this type of cancer, but we both do have a true love of the sun.

Our aim is to encourage the prevention of skin cancers in everyone. One of the reasons we live in beautiful Prescott is the abundance of sunshine. Now, though, we carefully apply sunscreen (with an SPF of 50 or more), and when I’m out on the trails for a run, I always wear clothing rated with UPF 50.

Beth and I will continue to enjoy our beautiful outdoors. Our eyes have been opened. To the risks of sun exposure, but thanks to great care (and a wonderful dermatologist), we now understand the importance of taking precautions. It’s never too late. Wear your sunscreen and see your dermatologist. This is one area you need to play it safe.