Cancer Coffins

I don’t have much experience with tanning beds.  I’ve been once in my entire life shortly before I wed my beautiful wife.  I probably lasted 5 minutes laying under those crazy neon lights, and the butt burn I received in that short time caused me a week of extreme discomfort.  Truth is, I have never been a colossal fan of just laying out in the sun or going to a tanning bed.  And yet here I am.

The more I’ve dug my toes into the painful realities of Melanoma over the last two years, our culture trends towards being tan become even more painfully disturbing.  One trend in particular that often interferes with my sanity is indoor tanning.  It’s one thing to be out in the sun constantly and not do anything to protect your skin from being damaged.  It’s another thing to consistently fork out money to go lay in a bed that exposes you to UVA radiation.  To have a completely honest moment here in the middle of this paragraph, I get very uncomfortable around individuals who intentionally and harmfully tan their skin, whether they know my story or not. I confess that I struggle with defending my heart against bitterness and pride, and often fail to look past a simple flaw and love them as Christ would.  Facial expressions and words (or lack there of) reflect my heart all too often.  But despite this struggle, I truly believe that sharing information about the harmful effects of these deadly habits can be very helpful.

Indoor Tanning

We’ve heard the term cancer coffins many times over. But evidence has shown that the use of indoor tanning beds has increased since the 1990’s. In fact, since 1997, the popularity of indoor tanning has exploded, especially among women under age 30. Only a few tanning salons existed in the United States in the early 1980s.  Today, more than 30 million Americans use commercial tanning beds each year and more than 1 million use them a day.

Here’s some other revealing stats that I’ve been able to piece together.   The top 10 states for Melanoma occurrence are:

1) California


3)New York






9) North Carolina

10) New Jersey

Now, let’s do comparing.   I recently came across an article posted in 2007 on a website that recognizes the Top 250 tanning salons in the United States (  The article states that “The highest number of tanning salons per capita are found in the Midwest and Southeast, with Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Florida having the most salons.” So let’s play the matching game…5 of the states that reportedly have the highest number of tanning salons are states that are also found in the top 10 for Melanoma occurrence in America.  Coincidence?

UVA radiation used in tanning beds is three times the amount of harmful radiation emitted by the sun.  UVA rays from tanning beds penetrate deep into the skin; they destroy skin fibers and damage elasticity, causing premature aging, wrinkles and leathery skin.  “Exposure to tanning beds before the age of 30 increases a person’s risk of developing melanoma by 75%, and younger people who regularly use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma than people who have never used them.  Even occasional use of tanning beds triples their chances (IARC Lancet Oncology, publication of July 2009).” 75%!!  That’s insane!

In 2009as a result of the jaw dropping data that continues to swarm studies, “the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer announced that it had placed UV tanning beds into its highest cancer risk category: ‘carcinogenic’ to humans (MRF).” For those of you who are not sure what carcinogenic refers to, it is any substance that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer.   Or perhaps you’ve heard of the term before when referring to tobacco use, because cigarettes have long been placed into his category as well.  Obviously tanning and tobacco use have their differences, but in my opinion I see striking resemblances in the people that make use of the two.   You’re either 1)naive, 2)addicted, or 3)someone who for whatever reason, doesn’t care .

Experts have attributed increased melanoma rates to the increases in unprotected UV exposure.  Yet indoor tanning remains a perfectly legal pastime and a multi billion dollar industry, despite its dangers.  Should vanity be outlawed?

Next Post: My Contribution in Life (not Melanoma)

In Pursuit of Him,


To register for Denny’s Challenge which is a race this Saturday (July 14) that raises support of Melanoma or to donate money to our fundraiser that goes directly to the Melanoma Research Foundation go to  We would love to see you all there!


Excuses vs. Facts

To begin, I would just like to point out that most all of the information that I dig up in these posts have a source.  You can learn a whole hunk of information about Melanoma by visiting the Melanoma Research Foundations website  Many of the facts and data that I pour into these posts comes from the very lengthy annual report that the foundation puts out about their research. 

The fact is that in the U.S. in 1940 your chances of getting Melanoma in your lifetime was about 1 in 1500.  As of 2010, that number has dramatically increased to 1 in 50.   Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States and worldwide.  When it comes to the color tone of our skin, the trend of our culture towards the “darker is more beautiful” concept is turning out to be a deadly one.  This obsession has led all of us to doing what we humans do best, make excuses and intetionally ignore the ramifications of our choices. Hopefully, outlining some of these excuses and placing them side by side with actual facts will be helpful to look at.

Excuse #1– It’s Cloudy out, I don’t need to wear sunscreen.

FACT– Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the suns ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.  Overcast skies can lead to tans or nasty burns just because your not expecting it.

Excuse #2– My skin tans more than it burns, so I should be fine.

FACT– Tanning the skin is not healthy or healthier.  Tanning (outdoors or indoors) is causing permanent damage to skin.  The golden tone to your skin is a result of injury to your epidermis, which is the top layer of your skin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer.

Excuse #3– If I haven’t got skin cancer or Melanoma by now, I’ll probably never get it.  After all, it is a young person’s disease isn’t it?

FACT– Melanoma is the most common cancer in men over the age of 50.  That’s in front of colon, prostate, and lung cancer.  It can develop on anyone- no matter their age, sex, or race.

Excuse #4– I need to make sure I’m getting my Vitamin D

FACT-Don’t get conned by tanning salons’ talk about vitamin D and a “healthy glow.”  You can get all the vitamin D you need from a healthy diet or vitamin supplement (that won’t give you cancer).  The truth is you receive 4-7 times the amount of UV radiation needed for vitamin D production in one 20-minute tanning session. 

Excuse #5– I need a healthy glow

FACT– There’s a difference between “need” and “want”. If your that set on getting a healthy glow, spray it on.  It’s healthier.

Excuse #6– I find it cheaper to just go the tanning bed or lay out than to buy the spray on stuff…or…going to a dermatologist is just TOO expensive.

FACT– Melanoma is EXPENSIVE.  In the words of good ol’ LeVar Burton

d for it.

…and Exposure to tanning beds before the age of 30 increases a person’s risk of developing Melanoma by a whopping 75%!!! Younger people who regularly use tanning beds are 8 times more likely to develop Melanoma than people who have never used them. Occasional use of tanning beds triples their chances.  

Excuse #7– I have more freckles than I do moles and I do a good job at keeping track of my own. 

FACT– Freckles are usually found on sun-exposed areas of the body. They’re more noticeable in the summer, especially among fair-skinned people and those with light or red hair. A lot of skin cancers in the earliest stages resemble a freckle. It’s great that you keep track of your own skin but go to a dermatologist and get checked out regularly, because more than likely, you do not have a Ph.D. in dermatology.  

Excuse #8– I hate sunscreen. It’s too messy to reapply it when I’m sandy and sticky at the beach and when I sweat, the stuff just run into my eyes.

FACT– I hate it too, and I have Melanoma!! If you have to be out in the sun, the best way to protect your skin from both UVB and UVA rays besides protective clothing is to put on sunscreen. But be aware that most sunscreens are NOT effective until 30 minutes after application.  The key ingredient in most sunscreens is  para-aminobenzoic acid, which protects the skin by absorbing the Ultraviolet light.  It needs time to bind to the skin to be fully effective.  But putting suncreen on does not make you bulletproof. Very often I hear people say, “Well I put sunscreen on.” But if we don’t avoid excessive sunlight, especially during peak hours of the day, the sunscreen is nothing  but a temporary barrier that soon vanishes and leaves are skin to damage itself.

Excuse #9 (Parents)-  It’s too much of an irritating inconvenience to put it on myself, let alone make sure my own kids are wearing it.  

FACT– It takes only one blistering sunburn, especially at a young age, to more than double a peson’s chance of developing Melanoma later in life. Children under the age of 6 months have very sensitive skin, and sunscreens are potentially irritating to them. They are better protected by staying out of the sun, seeking shade, avoiding peak hours of sunlight, and using protective clothing such as hats and long sleeves.

Future posts: Indoor tanning

                            My Contribution in Life…not Melanoma

In pursuit of Him,


Melanoma…It’s Cancer

A little over two years ago, I had a lot to share. And now it’s been ages since I’ve written on here. I recently flipped through my old posts and re-lived memories.  But in the midst of the many entries that I created, not one of them was truly dedicated to educating others about Melanoma.  Intentional? Yes.  At times I was intent on being as ignorant as possible when thinking Melanoma. I have it.  I don’t want it.  I want to live a normal life.  I don’t want to think about it.  Result: No posts about the true hard facts surrounding this deadly disease.  Root?  I am weak.  Thinking about Melanoma and educating others reminds me more than I want to be reminded.

Sure, I’ve been an open book when discussing my own experience with it.  But one being open about their own life is not unatural.  After all, we have turned a 28 year old (Mark Zuckerberg) into a billionare because we like to vainly proclaim each detail of our lives to eachother.  Studying the facts, numbers, and percentages of Melanoma is much more surly.

Dialogue with the peeps

Dialogue with many over the last two years has been mostly encouraging, and yet at times very awkward.  Especially when they run into me burnt or tanned from head to toe.  I quickly sense an inward panic as they conjure up an excuse or fib because they’re embarrassed.  At times, I can tell it’s out of true disgust that they made a mistake of not putting sunscreen on, and they understand the ramifications.  But many are embarrassed because they know it’s a habit, or dare I say addiction.

How did I get Melanoma?

I’m don’t have crazy light skin. I don’t have blue eyes, red or blonde hair. I didn’t go to tanning beds.  There’s no family history of skin cancer.  What gives?

Simple answers: I’m white (i.e. I’m of European origin :0 ).  I also grew up being a typical male who didn’t think twice about protecting his skin.  I played soccer for much of my life, worked outdoor jobs, and enjoyed being in the water while taking part in recreational activities.  I remember instances when stepping into the shower screaming in excruciating pain while resembling something of a human fire ant.


Let’s go further than just me.  The top 10 countries for Melanoma incidence are Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, United States, Austria, Iceland, and Netherlands.  It doesn’t take a Wolfgang von Goethe to point out there there’s one very distinct common characteristic in the populations of these countries. 

In the United States alone, from the years 1999-2006 there are some crazy numbers!  In that span on a yearly average, there were nearly 45,000 new cases of Melanoma in  the United States (this surveillance data only covers 78% of the US popluation).  42,000 of those cases, were in caucasians  and only 3,000 cases were blacks, Asians, American Indians, and Hispanics.  That’s astounding!  Equally mind blowing is this.  96% of all Melanoma deaths in America are caucasian.

So what’s the deal with our skin?

Melanin is a substance that every human being has in their skin.  It gives our skin and hair it’s color.  One of it’s more important benefits is that it provides protection against the harmful rays of the sun. Other ethnicity groups outside of caucasians have a high melanin density, which reduces the risk for cutaneous Melanoma.   However, melanin does not completely protect you from the sun and people with darker skin are still at risk for damaging it.  Just not nearly as easily.  Darker skinned individuals, (No, I’m not speaking of white people who think they have dark skin) are able to tolerate exposure to the sun for hours without getting sunburnt.  It only takes minutes for a person with lighter skin to get burnt. 

I’ve heard all sorts of crazy thoughts and excuses over the past two years about protecting (or not protecting) their own skin. And I’ve written almost every one of them down.  This one I’ve actually heard this more than once, “It can’t truly be the suns rays that cause skin damage and skin cancer.  Populations near the equator don’t have the skin cancer rates that we do.  They must be doing something right.”  Yeah they are.  God designed them with more melanin and it’s as simple as that. 

…and there is soooo much more to come peeps! 🙂


To register for Denny’s Challenge which is a race in July that raises support of Melanoma or to donate money to our fundraiser that goes directly to the Melanoma Research Foundation go to   We would love to see you all there!

Denny’s Challenge, a 5k for Melanoma

About a month from now, my wife and I, along with many others, will be participating in this 5k that raises money and awareness for Melanoma.  We would love to see as many of you as possible out there running or walking.  The race itself is on Saturday July 14 and raises funds that go directly go the Melanoma Research Foundation.  To register go to or go to the organizers website for more information. 

If you are unable or unwilling 🙂 to participate on race day, you can donate to the Melanoma Research Foundation by going to a fundraising page that I set up

In the following weeks, I will be dedicating a few blog posts to Melanoma facts and information.  Many in America are not educated on the seriousness of protecting their own skin.  However, many people are and yet there is a significant gap between knowledge and practice. 

Thanks to all of you in advance for your time and support.  If you choose to follow my posts in the following weeks, buckle your seatbelts and hide your toes!  There’s a good chance I might be stepping on them… 🙂

In pursuit of Christ,


Denny’s Challenge 5k, a Miles for Melanoma Run/Walk

Denny’s Challenge 5k, a Miles for Melanoma Run/Walk.

I’ve set up a fund raising page through this 5K for Melanoma that will be taking place in July.  The event is located here in Cary, NC and myself, Mary, and other friends will be participating.

This is a pretty elementary way of raising money for a deadly cancer that has changed our lives forever.  And it’s fairly easy to make your mark and donate whatever you can to help Melanoma research.

I’ll share a quick story to communicate the importance of this from our perspective.

About a week and half after my lymph node dissection late February 2010, I went to UNC to meet with my surgical oncologist and finally get my drains removed from under both of my arms.  The fact that those smelly uncomfortable drains would forever be removed from my body was a relief to say the least.  I walked out of that office feeling a bit free. But that feeling was only short lived.

Minutes later, my pregnant wife and I would walk across the hall and meet my medical oncologist, who would be meeting with us to discuss my stage, percentages, and of course my plan of treatment.   Minutes later we learned the severity of my staging and the seriousness of Melanoma.

We learned that my cancer had an 80% to come back and I had a 27% chance to live 10 more years.  We learned that I was going to be going through 12 straight months of intense Interferon treatment that was going to make me feel miserable, but this treatment only decreased that chance of recurrence by 10%.  “That’s all we have for Melanoma at this point,” our oncologist verbalized with a disappointed voice.  Opinions even point some to avoid the treatment all together because they label it worthless.  I told them to give me whatever they had and I’d deal with it.

I know cancer as a whole is still a lion in the medical field that billions of people worldwide are trying to tackle.  But within that lion is Melanoma, which is a deadly bear on its own. The casual attitude which millions approach Melanoma is scary.

Melanoma research really hits home in the Norton household to say the least.  And I know it effects millions of others.  Just a small way we can all chip in and help out.

Striving for Him,