Lexington melanoma survivor encourages smart sun safety

The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates this year there will be 207 thousand new melanoma cases diagnosed.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 8:48 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Chances are this summer you have had a little fun in the sun, but too much exposure can increase your chances of skin cancer.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says it is the most common cancer in the world.

For Liz Toombs of Lexington, she has heard the words you have cancer.

In this Link to Hope story, Toombs is sharing a message she wishes she had heard as a teenager that may have saved her from melanoma later in life.

As an interior designer Toombs spends her days creating stylish and cozy living spaces.

Her work takes her from her home office in Lexington to cities all across the country, but the second she gets some down time she can be found outside.

“We are lake people, we go all the time, we love it,” said Liz Toombs.

Fun in the sun for the 38-year-old is very different now than it used to be.

“I was a bit of a sun worshipper,” said Toombs.

Toombs admits the tanning bed and chasing that bronze look from the sun were a part of her high school and college days.

“When I was 25 I went in for just my routine skin check, just my annual skin check. At that point, I had been going once a year and the physician assistant said I want to biopsy this spot, I think its fine I’m just being overly cautious,” said Toombs.

Turns out it was melanoma.

The diagnosis was in 2008 and to date Toombs body has become a roadmap of scars.

“I think as of last count there is like 16, most of them are on the trunk of my body. So again, if you think about being in the tanning bed those are the areas that you are lying on your back on that bed, it’s the place that gets the most exposure,” said Toombs.

That diagnosis changed Toombs life and attitude towards sun exposure.

The lake is still her getaway, but she doesn’t linger in the sun without protection.

“I’m just smarter about it now. I make sure my makeup has sunscreen in it, I’m protecting my face. I wear large hats. I wear big sunglasses. Sun prevention, but make it cute kind of stuff,” said Toombs.

She has also included a new staple to her wardrobe, UPF clothing to protect against ultraviolent light.

Her diagnosis more than a decade ago was also a wakeup call.

“I started to take more chances and I started my business right after that,” said Toombs.

With the melanoma caught early, it’s now given Toombs a chance to be a link to hope and spread an important message.

“Stop feeling like you have to look like everyone else, because that is something that in your youth you are really focused on. You are good as you are,” said Toombs.

The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates this year there will be 207,000 new melanoma cases diagnosed.

Full disclosure, Liz Toombs is WKYT’s Amber Philpott’s best friend, and she says watching Toombs on this journey has really taught her a lot about sun exposure awareness.

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