Tell us who you are and where you’re from
My name is Leah Adams and I am a 27 year old melanoma Stage IA survivor from Cleveland Ohio.
Describe yourself in 3 to 5 words.
I am outgoing, determined, caring, loving, and positive.
What was your attitude to sun protection before you were diagnosed?
I made a lot of unhealthy sun choices and had unhealthy sun habits for a very long time. Used tanning beds, rarely used sunscreen, would lay out in the sun with tanning oil or VERY low SPF. I also didn’t get a skin check until I was 25 years old.
How did you discover your skin cancer/melanoma and how long ago?
My first ever skin check back in September 2019 is where my melanoma was found. I received the call of stage IA malignant melanoma on October 14, 2019.
How did you feel when you were diagnosed?
Scared, anxious, hopeless, frustrated, and embarrassed.
What were your treatment options? What did you decide on and why?
After 4 appointments, 1 surgery & 1 sentinel lymph node biopsy, I found out the melanoma was removed from my chest and the test indicated the cancer did not spread to my organs. I am one of the lucky ones who received good news and the cancer was caught early through treatment. However, my life is forever changed from this diagnosis. I now have to get a skin check every 3 months.
What is your attitude towards sun protection today?
Sun protection is something very important to me nowadays. I take it very seriously and know that you can enjoy the sun, you just have to do it safely and be wise about your choices. I no longer go out in the sun longer than 15-20 minutes without sunscreen and I no longer use tanning beds. I also wear UPF clothing now to protect my skin when I run, hike, kayak, or golf.
What are your best sun protection tips?
My best sun protection tips are getting a skin check at least once a year. Especially if you have a lot of moles like me, have a history of skin cancer in your family, or if you have also made unhealthy sun choices like not using sunscreen or using tanning beds. When you’re outside for a long time, wear sunscreen SPF 30 or higher, wear a hat, wear sunglasses and make sure you reapply sunscreen every 30-60 minutes if you’re in the pool, exercising outside and sweating, etc.
What would you tell your 16-year-old self about taking care of your skin and sun protection?
I would tell my 16-year-old self to never use tanning beds and never go out in the sun for a prolonged period of time without using sunscreen and reapplying. Being tan does not make you cool and if you want to be tan, use a safe and healthy sunless tanning lotion to give you a natural glow.
What do you wish others knew about melanoma/ skin cancer?
I’d like to debunk the “it’s ‘just’ skin cancer” myth. Many people believe cancer of the skin can easily be removed or cut out. But melanoma is actually the most deadly type of skin cancer and is especially serious once it spreads to the lymph nodes and other parts of the body. And for those of you who like to know numbers, 70,000 new cases of invasive melanoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. It's one of the most frequently occurring cancers in young adults ages 20 to 30, and it's the main cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old; which is my age range. Melanoma is NOT to be messed with and it's not ‘just’ skin cancer; cancer is cancer no matter what kind it is.