Summer Fun Shadowed by Deadly Skin Cancer

05/25/2015 03:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2016

It's not surprising that May signifies both the official kickoff to summer and Skin Cancer Awareness month. It's a great reminder to protect your skin while enjoying the beautiful outdoors.

Whether it's a day at the pool, a barbecue with friends or simply driving in the car, protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun is important not only during the summer, but all year long.

According to, an estimated 2.8 million cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common form of skin cancer, were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2010. That figure continues to climb.

Dr. Anna Garrett was diagnosed with basal cell cancer on a routine "get to know you" visit to a new dermatologist in the city she had just moved to.

Anna says, "The doctor was examining my face with her magnifying glass and came across a small spot (that looked like others on my face) and asked, 'How long has that been there?' I answered I did not know." One biopsy later, Anna found out it was malignant.

She was not new to skin cancer. Anna had a long family history of melanoma that included the loss of both her dad and uncle.

Fortunately, Anna had Mohs surgery, and it was taken care of. Now, she's vigilant about visiting her dermatologist for ANYTHING that looks off!

Liz Toombs says, "I had bad tanning practices and a lot of moles. At the urging of my mom and husband, I had them checked out."

Liz was 25 when the physician assistant at the dermatologist's office found cancer in the form of a mole on Liz's back. The mole was melanoma, and they were able to remove all of it and left a 4-inch scar on her back. Liz is now fine.

She says, "When the doctor called initially, they were reassuring. I thought it was no big deal because I'd had a lot of moles removed before."

As the doctor was explaining the gravity of the situation, it was upsetting. Liz was alarmed to have melanoma at such a young age. They mentioned that if she did not currently have life insurance or health insurance, she would not be eligible now. Luckily, she was already insured. Liz visits the dermatologist every six months now, uses proper sunscreen, and limits her sun exposure.

Mandi Gavlak, an esthetician for more than 15 years, began her career working for Dr. Paula Moynahan, where sun protection was the number one priority.

In the early part of 2014, Mandi had three clients diagnosed with early stage melanoma. She says, "The misconception many people have is that they only need sunscreen when they are at the beach. Cumulative daily exposure has the most impact on our skin."

Mandi launched M. Mills Co, a line of UV detection jewelry, as the perfect solution to show her clients, in a subtle way, when they are exposed to UV rays. She says, "Saying it wasn't enough to drive home the message. I needed to 'show' them."

The jewelry is outfitted with a UV detection bead. Each piece is different, but all are designed for the UV bead to stand out. When the special bead is exposed to UV rays, it turns purple or blue, and will be lighter with less exposure and darker with higher exposure.

Mandi says, "We often hear, 'I never thought I was getting that much exposure.' With this understanding, they are now using their sunscreen daily, and not just at the beach."

Julie Barnes is a business storyteller. She helps discover and tell the stories of entrepreneurs and small business owners that connect with clients, leaving a lasting impression. Visit