Surviving Melanoma

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Spending the day out in the sun is something we all enjoy. But for Lisa Tuchtenhagen and her daughter, Cammie, this year is different.

Lisa isn’t going to the tanning beds.

“I would go right around this time,” says Lisa. “I would go to get ready for the summer and get that base tan I guess you could say and that was very important to me for whatever reason.”

But that all changes last year when her doctor diagnosed her with skin cancer.

“Anything that he said after he said ‘You have melanoma,’ I didn't hear it,” said Lisa.

It’s a moment her daughter remembers well.

“It made me feel so scared about everything that was going to happen,” Cammie told us in tears.

Her mom is part of a growing number of young women being diagnosed with melanoma. According to the Mayo Clinic, young women are now eight times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than forty years ago.

“The young women who have been diagnosed with melanoma almost always had a history of tanning either through the sun or tanning bed use,” said Dr. Vinh Chung, a dermatologist with Vanguard Skin Specialists.

He sees it in his practice every day, especially because of the increased threat in our state.

“Colorado has a 30% higher rate of melanoma than the rest of the country,” said Dr. Chung.

But there’s something we can do, beyond wearing sunscreen. We can check our skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests following the A, B, C, D guidelines as the simplest way to spot suspicious moles.

A is for Asymmetry
B is for an Irregular Border
C is for Color
D is for Diameter

But now another letter has been added to these guidelines. E for Evolution. You have to let your doctor know if a mole has changed.

“The doctor can see what you present him with,” says Dr. Chung. “But he will not know the history unless you offer it to your doctor.”

Lisa is glad she talked with her doctor. It took several surgeries and left her with a 6-inch scar. But Lisa is now cancer free. And she and Cammie want everyone to hear the message that you don’t have to be tan to be beautiful.

During the month of May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the American Academy of Dermatology is offering free skin checks. To find a dermatologist near you, click this link: