Lightly bronzed skin gives off the appearance of health (also, wealth–were you just in Aruba, friends will wonder) and models in magazine ads are always perfectly sun-kissed, so it’s no wonder we crave a bit of a tan. But there’s nothing healthy or sexy about skin cancer, and one woman is hoping her post skin cancer surgery photos will make people–young and old–rethink their choice to tan.
Malory Lubbock is a 26-year-old mom who now practices safe sun protection, but as a teenager Lubbock spent a lot of time in tanning beds. Like, once a day for an entire two years, and every few days for four years.
The Iowa native admits that while she knew skin cancer was caused by prolonged sun exposure, she never believed it would actually happen to her. But it did. Years after her tanning obsession as a teen, Lubbock was diagnosed with skin cancer on her upper lip and had the cancerous cells surgically removed.
The photos might be intense and uncomfortable for some, but that’s the point.
“I wanted to bring awareness to not only what can happen when you’re out in the sun without sunscreen but also in a tanning bed,” Lubbock told Yahoo!. “I’m so young and will now deal with this the rest of my life!”
For Lubbock, this diagnosis and surgery was a wake-up call, and she hopes that her experience will deter young women, including her own young daughter, from stepping into a tanning bed.
“I hope to God my own daughter doesn’t get into [a tanning bed]. And I will do everything in my power to make sure she hopefully doesn’t,” she said.
Skin cancer is on the rise, even here in Canada where we spend much of the year covered up, waiting out winter. According to the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, one in six Canadians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime–80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and more than 5,000 of those are melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancer.
While Lubbock might be left with a scar, it’s better than the alternative (um, death). Whether you tanned as teen too, or if you continue to be in the sun sans sunscreen, it’s important to monitor changes to your skin — keep an eye out for unusually dark or uneven spots or moles that crust and bleed — and visit a dermatologist anytime something look or feels off. Ditch the tanning bed and lather yourself in SPF when you do step out in the sun. The reality is, being pale beats skin cancer any day.