Goggle tans are sexy. The problem is that melanoma kills some 65,000 people a year, and skiers (and their goggle tans) are particularly vulnerable.
On a cold and partly cloudy winter day, after pulling on snow pants and jackets, boots and helmets, gloves and trusty neck gators, many skiers might not think to also put on some sun block. But a day on the slopes can pose a bigger skin cancer risk than one at the beach.
Ultraviolet rays bounce off snow while radiation increases with elevation. In fact, snow can reflect up to 90% of UV radiation and radiation increases by 20% for every 3,280 feet you rise above sea level, according to the Medical Research Charity RAFT.
But skiers treat the issue casually and goggle tans become the mark of the hard core. Too many forget or underestimate the effect that the winter sun has on their skin. They don’t appreciate the real risk, or are too young to fret about cancer.
Two years ago this might have sounded like Andy Caress. “I didn’t believe that I was threatening my life when I went outside and did not wear sunscreen,” says Andy, who skis at every opportunity. “You should know that this is wrong.”
Andy moved to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 2007, after graduating from Coastal Carolina University. In October of 2008 he had a small mole removed from the back of his neck. And at 23 he was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma.
“I did not protect myself from the sun as I should have, and even worse, I ignored those who advised me that I should protect myself,” says Andy. “I had the attitude that I was invincible. I figured I was way too young to worry about cancer.”
Andy’s battle with melanoma continues to this day. On one front he fights for his life. On another he fights to spread melanoma awareness, and he’s making strong moves with the recent launch of his Mela-KNOW-More organization.
Mela-KNOW-More is an all-encompassing resource for parents, caregivers, and supporters. The non-profit organization will host awareness events around the world, spread its message through clothing and fashion, connect people who need information and support, and serve as a venue to celebrate the melanoma warriors who have lost their battles.
Andy’s mission is to educate the world about the seriousness of the disease. “For way too long, a terrible misconception has gone hand-in-hand with melanoma and skin cancer in general, that it is an ‘easy’ or ‘lucky’ cancer to get,” Andy says. “People need to know that melanoma is one of the most deadly forms of cancer there is. It can attack and shut down major organs in the body, including the brain, lungs, bones and muscles, very quickly.” Awareness, prevention, and early detection are essential.
Be a part of Andy’s fight to spread melanoma awareness. On the Mela-KNOW-More website, you can get a Founders Bracelet if you donate $10 or more to the organization (PayPal or check). The first 50 to donate $100 or more get a Mela-KNOW-More Founders T-Shirt. Tax-deductible status is pending and your money will fund innovative research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where Andy is being treated.