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A Conversation
on Prevention

Advocacy, Cosmetic Pesticides, Guest blogger, Provincial Election, Survivor, April 20th, 2013

Top 5 Reasons to Ban Cosmetic Pesticides

by Nazanine Parent, cancer survivor and Canadian Cancer Society BC and Yukon volunteer

1)     No one should have to worry about children playing in the grass

Children are at greater risk from pesticide exposure than adults because they play closer to the ground and their bodies are still developing. Cosmetic pesticides can be inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or be swallowed when children place contaminated objects and their hands and in their mouths. Don’t forget about our pets too!

2)     It’s a public health issue

There is a growing body of evidence linking pesticide exposure with certain types of cancer, including childhood leukemia and childhood brain cancer.

3)     They’re not necessary

Cosmetic pesticides are used to make lawns, gardens and other green spaces look better. We call them ‘cosmetic’ because some think they improve the appearance of lawns and gardens. Regardless, they are not needed for health and safety. Safe and effective alternatives exist.  

4)     Pesticides don’t stop at the garden gate

Your family can be indirectly exposed even if you do not use cosmetic pesticides. If sprayed, cosmetic pesticides can drift through the environment and mix with the air, soil, or water. Pesticides may even collect on plants & objects we don’t intend to spray.

5)     British Columbians support a ban  

- 40 municipalities have cosmetic pesticide restrictions

- More than 70% of British Columbians support provincial legislation to restrict pesticide use

- 76% of British Columbians are aware of the link between pesticides & cancer


We’re asking all political parties to support banning the use, sale and retail display of cosmetic pesticides used on public and private lands – something only the provincial government has the power to do.

How can you help? Spread the word, share this blog post with your friends, email BC’s party leaders and find out what they’re doing to help ban the use and sale of cosmetic pesticides.

Authorized by the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon, registered sponsor under the Election Act, 604-872-4400.

Guest blogger, Men's Health, My One Thing, Survivor, September 27th, 2012

Ryan Steele’s “One Thing”

This fall we are encouraging men and women to make their own Game Plan to defend themselves against cancer. Doing just “one thing” can make a difference to your cancer risk. We sat down with cancer survivor, comedian and all around loveable guy, Ryan Steele, to hear about his “one thing”. 

Who is Ryan Steele? And what do our readers need to know about you?

I am a Vancouver based sketch comedian who is one half of the super hilarious Ryan and Amy Show. I have been doing sketch around the city for over 5 years now and am currently working on my first television show. I am also a cancer survivor! I was diagnosed with testicular cancer when I was 19 years-old and have been clean and healthy for 15 years now. I underwent 4 rounds of chemotherapy and 2 large surgeries that have made me the strong well rounded man I am today.

If I gave you an elephant where would you hide it?

If I was given an elephant I would hide it in my bed because nobody ever goes there. Ba dum ching.

If you could describe yourself with only one word what would it be?

If I could describe myself with one word it would have to be determined.

You survived cancer and know first hand how important staying healthy is. What advice do you have for men to keep themselves healthy?

My advice for men to keep themselves healthy is always being aware of their body. Go for check-ups regularly and see your doctor immediately if you have the smallest worry that something might be wrong. It’s very important to exercise regularly. I suggest running the seawall shirtless (with sunscreen, of course). Great for head turning. ;)  Also, balance your eating habits. Fast food is okay occasionally but not everyday. And of course, don’t smoke. It’s very embarrassing to do so these days.

We’re encouraging people to get a game plan to defend themselves against cancer. Doing just “one thing” can make a difference to your cancer risk. What’s your “one thing” that you will commit to?

My “one thing” I will commit to is cutting down my drinking! I’m known to have a ‘good time’ but I need to limit myself to reduce my chances of cancer in the future.

A huge thank you goes to Ryan for sharing his advice and his “one thing”! You can check out Ryan’s comedy on the Ryan Steele Show!

Guest blogger, Survivor, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, August 23rd, 2012

Don’t Shorten Your Life For A Tan

By Jessica Van Wageningen

At the age of twenty-four, Jessica Van Wageningen from North Vancouver, B.C., was diagnosed with melanoma, the most severe form of skin cancer. As a former indoor tanner, Jessica is now hoping her story will inspire others to embrace their natural skin tone and not the tanning bed. She doesn’t let skin cancer define her and she is ready to move past this experience, with a new outlook on life.

It was the moment I heard I had melanoma that my life changed. I realized life is short, so I shouldn’t take anything for granted. I think I took my health for granted when it came to tanning and if I could go back and undo all the indoor tanning that I did, I would in a heartbeat. 

Just days after my twenty-fourth birthday, my mom finally convinced me to get a small mole on my left side removed. I thought her concerns about my mole were crazy, but I went to have it looked at one Monday afternoon to put her at ease. My mole was the size of the top of a pencil easer, with irregular edges, and as dark as dark chocolate. The doctor that removed it believed I had nothing to worry about but took precautions to be one hundred percent sure by removing it.

I am thankful the doctor was aggressive and took it off right then and there. I received a call four days after my mole was removed from my doctor’s office and they asked me to come in, as my results were ready. I sat down and the first words that came out of the doctor’s mouth were, “You have melanoma skin cancer.” I sat there in shock, as tears streamed down my face. I asked the doctor if I was going to live and she said she didn’t know. It was the scariest feeling to hear that my own doctor was not sure whether I would have my life back.

I asked myself, “Why me? Why anyone?”

A week after finding out I had melanoma, I went to the hospital and a plastic surgeon removed more tissue to make sure all the melanoma had been cut out. It was a painful recovery for the next few days after the surgery as my muscle was bruised from digging so deep into my tissue. I received the results for the tissue biopsy and the melanoma was not in the tissue. It was the happiest day of my life.

I was in an early stage of melanoma and early detection is the key to catching it.  Melanoma is an aggressive cancer and it grows quickly. I am a lucky girl, but some people aren’t so lucky and melanoma takes many lives each year. I wish I knew back then, when I loved tanning, what I know today.

I went indoor tanning twenty-two days in a row before grad and continued throughout the last seven years. I want people to know, whether they are a teenager, a young adult or older, how incredibly scary tanning beds are. Melanoma can happen to anyone. I never believed it would happen to me.  

The steps to protect yourself are so easy! Don’t do indoor tanning, wear sunscreen, seek shade when you can, and get your skin checked! Love yourself for who you are and embrace being your natural skin tone – you are beautiful when you do. Don’t shorten your life for a ‘healthy glow or a base tan.’ No tan is a healthy tan. 

Now cancer-free, Jessica shows her scar from where the melanoma was removed.

Read Jessica’s Letter to Editor of the North Shore News – Grads: Tanning not worth your life.

Guest blogger, Survivor, Tanning, Women's Health, Youth, August 17th, 2012

Fa-shun-able Me

by Sarah Merrill

Since my last post there are a few things I would like to clarify. I know suggesting forgoing a tan for some equates social suicide, you might as well “put your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye”. I understand, but please realize it took a bout of skin cancer for me to even think about changing my ways. In fact, one month after being cancer-free I spent days lying in the California sun (applying sunscreen every two hours of course and making sure I did not burn…). Although I was consciously applying sunscreen I also kept checking my tan lines to see if – by chance – I’d achieved a little color. Yup, one month after skin cancer I still managed to justify baking in the sun. Really there is no difference between you and I, I’m just one of the ones who got caught.  I did not share my story expecting you to drop everything and stop tanning. It’s a process, a process that can only happen if YOU want to make it happen. Having skin cancer forced me to get creative, unfortunately I can’t reverse the damage done, but I can take precautions so it will not happen again.

It’s about making little tweaks here and there; sun protection does not have to be a daunting task. Last summer, I set a goal to remain sunburn-free through the scorching months and I achieved it! This summer I upped the anti and decided to make adjustments to my daily routine and wardrobe. Instead of adding to my already abundant collection of short-shorts and sleeveless numbers, I purchased feminine maxi skirts, breezy cover-ups, a wide brimmed hat and I’m slowly replacing my cosmetics with products containing SPF.

However, my enthusiasm is not shared by everyone. Since incorporating sun safe changes I’ve received the following comments: “Why don’t you wear clothes that fit?”, “Show some skin” and my favourite “You look like a 60 year-old grandma”. Moral of the story, people are not down with my new digs, but I find consolation in the fact that my grandma is one sexy old lady, so whatever.

Ladies I know sunscreen can be greasy, ruins your makeup, and is just an overall hassle, but there’s a solution! Try a 30 SPF powder foundation! They do exist. And despite my earlier quip, it is possible to protect yourself from the sun and look good while doing so! (At least I think I pull it off…) If you choose to embrace your natural skin tone there are ways to showcase it. If not, there are methods to fake it till you make it!

Guys, it’s your turn. Sunscreen can be a royal pain in the butt, yet going without it ain’t worth it! Wear sunglasses, a hat, and try a spray sunscreen. It’s a quick application method, so quick you won’t miss a second of the beach action.

YOU can minimize your risk of skin cancer (melanoma is one of the most deadly & common diseases in young people ages 15-29, but it is mostly preventable!) by taking note of these alternative tips and tricks. I look at it as a special you treatment all summer long. You’re worth it! Summer is coming to a close, but start the process by thinking about what little change(s) you might incorporate into your routine next summer. I risked my life in the name of beauty once, and I don’t plan on doing it again, even if it means being fa-shun-able.  For now, I’ll take 21 dressing like 60 over skin cancer any day.

Sarah Merrill is a volunteer blogger for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Tanning is Out initiative.

Guest blogger, Survivor, TIO Ambassadors, Tanning, Women's Health, July 23rd, 2012

I’d hate to be Frank

By Sarah Merrill

Sarah Merrill is a volunteer blogger for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Tanning is Out initiative. She is also a skin cancer survivor. In her latest post, she shares her story.

A few years ago I remember reading a magazine article about a girl in her twenties who after excessive tanning was diagnosed with skin cancer. The spread contrasted photos of her tanned with pictures of her embracing her natural skin tone.  In the moment the story resonated, but I got up, put the magazine down and walked away.  It would never happen to me.

I have always been a health conscious individual; I exercise regularly and eat healthy because I was taught to treat my body with respect. I wore sunscreen most of the time, but my lily-white skin didn’t mix well with the Saskatchewan sun. My love for outdoor sports seemed to make at least one major sunburn  inevitable each summer. When it came to indoor tanning I was apprehensive, but at age 16 I tanned to get a “good base tan” for Mexico. A year or so later I tanned a couple of times before a friends prom, and one last time for my own prom. I did not want to be orange like the girls who graduated before me; I just wanted that “healthy glow”. I debated a spray tan, but it didn’t fit my high school budget and I’d have to travel to find a salon that offered spray tan services. Sadly, I didn’t know going in a tanning bed for ANY AMOUNT OF TIME before the age of 35 can increase one’s risk of skin cancer by 75%.

Somewhere along the line, a mole on my knee morphed from the small brown beauty mark it once was to a funky-looking pink aberration. I went to my doctor to get the mole removed – simply because it was unattractive – but he considered excision of the mole cosmetic and sent me on my way. By grade 12 the mole grew bigger, was getting more attention, and thus became worthy of a name – Frank. How the name came about, I cannot recall but it stuck. Frank was a creepy little guy, so unpleasant looking my peers suggested I wear band-aids over him and pretend it was a cut.

That fall, I moved to Calgary for university and the following short-shorts worthy summer brought Frank to my attention, for a second time. He was a little more red, a lot more raised, and rather round. With more determination than last time I went to a few doctors, but the results were the same; one doctor offered to freeze Frank off and the rest said, “It is nothing”. Finally, after pulling some strings, I got an appointment in Saskatchewan and drove home specifically to have the mole removed. Both the doctor and the surgeon who removed Frank said, “It is nothing,” and that they were only sending Frank in as mandatory procedure. I watched them plop Frank in a little container thinking a tiny little scar would be all I had to remember him by. Good riddance!

Wrong. Frank actually had a family and they had moved in. It turns out “nothing” was stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma. Fortunately, the process for me was short; I was diagnosed around Thanksgiving in 2010, went in for surgery on December 16, and was announced cancer-free freshly into the New Year. Even though I have the battle wounds to prove it, a scar on my knee (initial incision) and upper thigh (lymph node removal), the seriousness of the situation did not sink in until recently when I heard about Glenna Kohl. At age 26 after excessive tanning both indoors and outdoors, and a misdiagnosis, stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma took Glenna’s life. As I read her story, it finally hit me that it’s a miracle my cancer had not spread since stage 3 invasive malignant melanoma generally means the cancer has gone beyond the skin and traveled throughout the body to the lymph nodes.

If you are reading this you’re probably feeling the same way I did years ago sitting in the doctors office, but please don’t walk away thinking, “It will never happen to me,” like I did. I encourage you to discuss Frank to your friends, family, or anyone who will listen – tweet it, Facebook it, or get old school and just talk about it – tanning is not worth the risk. Make little changes in your life (I’m not saying don’t go outside, just be careful when you do). Know your skin, watch for signs of change and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.