“If I could go back and talk to my 17-year-old self, I would tell (her) that skin cancer is avoidable,” Lisa Pace told Today.com on May 23. “(I’d say) don’t get in that tanning bed. Wear sunscreen. Wear protective clothing. People are going to love you for what you look like on the inside, not on the outside.”
According to the report, when she was a teen, Pace said she didn’t like her pale, freckled skin and attempted to get a tan to remedy the situation.
The woman said she had an addiction to tanning that started when she went to college.
“I’ve always been self-conscious of being light skinned with freckles and red hair,” she told the news outlet, adding that she played sports in college and was photographed frequently.
“I started tanning every day, or every other day,” Pace, who lives in Tennessee, added. “It was addictive. People would say, ‘You look so good, you look tan,’ and it just encouraged me.”
But in 2000, she was diagnosed with skin cancer for the first time when she was in her early 20s. A doctor had seen spots on her leg, asking her to come back to get a checkup. When she returned, the doctor revealed that it was melanoma.
“I blew it off for weeks,” said Pace. “They kept calling me and eventually, they said: ‘You need to get in here now.'”
Doctors removed the skin cancer growths on her lower and upper leg, forcing her to walk on crutches for a period of time after the operation.
However, that didn’t stop her from tanning.
A year later, she had to get more surgery for skin cancer from her face.
“It was gut wrenching and heartbreaking. This whole time I had been worried about how I looked, and now I have a huge scar on my face,” Pace told Today.com. “It was a huge chunk out of my face.”
She stopped tanning after that moment, but the skin cancer kept coming back. By the time she was in her 30s, she had already had 50 surgeries.
“It was hard to find a time to go to the doctor, to get the biopsies and the surgeries. It was stressful … I was going (to the doctor) nearly every day,” Pace said.
Doctors said that her case is unusual.
“I’ve never seen anyone with no genetic disorder, who had the number of skin cancers that Lisa had at her age,” Dr. Arielle Kauvar told the news outlet.
Kauvar noted: “The most important thing about Lisa’s story is that in her case, this was likely a result of indoor tanning.”
So far, she’s had 86 surgeries and tries to take care of her skin.
“Sunscreen is part of my daily routine, I won’t go outside without it,” she said. “I would much rather be pale, white, covered in freckles than to have all of the scars that I have,” she added.
“Everyone has a risk of skin cancer,” added Kauvar. “All you need is one melanoma to kill you.”
On the Today.com Facebook post about her story, many lamented going to tanning beds.
One wrote: “Tanning beds are so addictive. You feel so good after. I have gone in them a good amount in my 20s. I wish I didn’t!!”
Another wrote, “100 percent Italian and never burned. Did a lot of tanning beds in my 20s. On my 48th birthday I found out I had Melanoma. Thank God I questioned a “beauty” mark and caught it at an early stage. No one else on either side of my family has ever had this before.” She also included a photo of her scar.
According to Skincancer.org, melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.
“The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis,” says the website, adding they can “develop from moles” and look like moles.
Meanwhile, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States.