Ashley Burnstad’s story

I have been a sun lover since the age of 13, when my mother could no longer keep me slathered in sunscreen, cover-ups and hats. Once high school started, I spent almost every day in the summer basking in the sun with no sunscreen.

 

I can’t count the number of times I went home after hours in the sun burnt to a crisp, looking like a tomato.

 

At the age of 15, I discovered tanning beds to supplement my summertime addiction. I went several times a week, often going daily for weeks at a time, burning too many times to count. The shop owner loved to talk about the “benefits” of indoor tanning. I wanted to believe her, but my gut told me that there was no logic to what she was saying – still, I kept going for the sake of vanity.

 

I continued to tan until the age of 24, when at the doctor for a regular check-up, my GP recommended I see a dermatologist for a mole check. Not long after that, I found myself in a plastic surgeon’s office having numerous moles biopsied. He first asked me nonchalant questions about my health and sunburn history, but the look in his eyes changed when I told him how much indoor tanning I had done. When abnormal cells showed up from one mole and I had to have 12 stitches on my back to remove a large amount of tissue, I vowed to never step foot in another tanning bed or have another sunburn in my life.

 

I try to live without regrets, but the years of tanning and burning is one regret I can’t shake. I can now only rely on my own diligence to catch any skin cancer in early stage. Now at the age of 25, I do daily mole checks on myself and visit the dermatologist and plastic surgeon often for biopsies. When compared to the possibility of having melanoma, all the scars mean nothing. I understand what it feels like to think you’re invincible, and to be more interested in short term satisfaction than long term health and longevity – I was there not long ago.

 

My goal now is to educate as many people as I can about the dangers of indoor and unsafe tanning, with knowledge and real facts.

Making awareness and education available is crucial. Since 2006, the Foundation has worked to raise awareness of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers focusing on education, prevention and the need for improved patient care.
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