Safe Sun Stories: Don’t Forget Your Ears
May is Melanoma Awareness month and we’re really proud to partner with the Melanoma Research Alliance (MRA) to support Melanoma research. All month long we’re supporting the MRA through a host of exciting initiatives in-store, on our blog, and through social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. To share your support and save face, see our fav UV blocking products that benefit MRA.
Today, Dr. Krista Archer of Lenox Hill Hospital shares why it’s crucial to protect your ears..
While I was in medical school dermatology was one of my favorite classes, and I remember the ‘skin cancer’ lecture well with its accompanying slides. First came squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), then basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and the horrifying last slide of malignant melanoma (MM). Where BCC and SCC were shown on ears and noses as crusty, not especially shocking skin cancer, there was the malignant melanoma slide of a big black, slightly purple beetle-like lesion raised high off an unidentified piece of white skin. It carried a horrible prognosis for the patient. ‘Maybe less than one year to live’ I remember my lecturer saying.
After this lecture “Don’t forget your ears,” became my mantra while applying sun block. I became known as the ‘Skin Cancer Police’ to my friends and family. Now, fast forward ten years to a backyard in summertime with kids playing and adults chatting. It was one of my good friends sitting next to me who said, “I never noticed that weird freckle on your ear.” Weirder to me because I knew my freckles, I thought. But over the years, after sailing and lifeguarding all of my life, there were so many brown spots, and it was hard to keep track. Maybe I missed something. I remember going into the bathroom to look at this weird freckle, which I in fact had not noticed before. But it didn’t look like SCC or BCC, and it surely didn’t look like that awful MM in those pictures nearly a decade ago. So I brushed it off as a ‘sun spot’ or ‘age spot’, and I let one full year pass.
Then it was summer again, and I was sitting in another backyard under an umbrella watching the kids play in the pool, and as the sun was lowering in the sky a beam passed under the umbrella, and it hit my ear with the weird freckle. As the sun warmed my ear that weird freckle started to hurt, and I got a bad feeling in my gut that this was not just a ‘sun spot.’ I fussed with my ear for another month, constantly applying zinc, always tucking it into my hat, and tried to convince myself that the soreness I felt was maybe just psychosomatic. After all, I had been applying sun block to my face and ears for the last ten years. But, as I would soon come to learn, the damage was done way before that, on the lifeguard stand and in the sailboat.
When I visited my good friend and plastic surgeon one month later for an ‘injectable touch up’ my ear was almost an afterthought. ‘Oh, can you take a piece of this for me’, as I pointed to my right ear, ‘I have a feeling that it’s BCC or SCC.’ So she did, and about seven days later I got the diagnosis I wasn’t expecting. It was Malignant Melanoma In Situ. It took me about five minutes to recover from that punch in the gut, but then I was all business. Cut it out, pray the margins are clear, and I would take it from there. So she did, and I thank my lucky stars they were–clear, and now my outlook is changed forever.
I don’t have a family history of MM but now my son does. He has super white skin, blue eyes, and translucent blonde hair, and it has become my job to keep him safe from the sun. I have become a sun block snob, and a connoisseur of SPF clothing. I massage sun block onto his ears until they are warm and red. We walk on the shady side of the street, I always have a hat for him in my bag (although he mostly refuses to wear them), and I put notes in his lunch box to remind the teachers to reapply sun block before the playground. There is a bottle of sun block in every tote bag my babysitter would possibly carry while out with him. I tell him why it is important to protect his skin from the sun. I am teaching him, and one day he will be his own advocate. And that is the best thing I can do for him.
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Dr. Krista A. Archer is a surgeon who prides herself on attention to detail and excellent cosmetic results. As a former athlete and marathon runner, she enjoys treating sports-related and exercise-induced injuries. As a fashion lover, she understands the torture behind gorgeous high heels, and is determined to make them wearable. As a former pedicure lover, she is developing products to make going to the salon less worrisome and more rewarding. Dr. Archer is committed to providing pain relief and solutions to foot problems associated with plantar fasciitis, sports injuries, heel pain, bunions, corns, calluses, and foot and ankle arthritis.Krista Ammirati Archer, DPM is a Doctor of Podiatry Medicine and an Associate of the America College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (AACFAS). Dr. Archer is currently on staff at Lenox Hill Hospital (New York, NY), and performs her surgeries at Lenox Hill’s ambulatory surgery facility (MEETH), the Center for Specialty Care, or at her in-office fully accredited operating room (JACHO). She is also a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), and the New York State Podiatric Medical Association (NYSPMA).