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Study shows millennials are not getting the message when it comes to skin cancer

Posted: 7:51 AM, Jun 11, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-11 12:51:41Z

Doctors and researchers have spent years trying to warn people about the connection between sun exposure and skin cancer, however there is one group that does not seem to be getting the message. 

For 33-year-old Shara Coles, everything about being a mom is beautiful, especially breastfeeding.  That is why she tattooed an image of a mom breastfeeding on her left arm.

"I get compliments on it all the time," said Coles. 

Now, the ink signifies so much more than just motherhood. 

"The tattoo saved my life.  I honestly believe that," said Coles. 

Overtime Coles noticed a little change in the tattoo.

"A freckle on it grew into a mole," said Coles. 

That mole started to itch, so she asked her doctor about it.  Her doctor recommended burning it off.  But, instead she went to Nebraska Medicine where dermatologists would delicately remove it to protect her tattoo.  From there doctors ordered a biopsy.  Coles was notified she had skin cancer, it was a shock. 

"It confronts you with your own mortality," said Coles. 

The mother of three had melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, the mole had to be removed. 

The California native admits she never wore sun screen and loved looking tan. 

"When I was 20 I went to Mexico and I got a really bad sunburn while there," said Coles.  

Doctors say sunburn greatly increases your risk of melanoma.  But, Coles is not the only Millennial being diagnosed, studies show it is happening at an alarming rate.  

"People are motivated to tan by the way it made them feel.  They say they feel sexier, hotter, more confident," said Amy Watson. 

In 2012, the FDA required sun screen bottles carry warning labels.  But, Amy Watson, an Assistant Marketing Professor at Oregon State Cascades found that does not stop those between the ages of 18-36 from soaking up the sun.  

"We have to go where they are getting their info about beauty and right now that is social media," said Watson. 

Watson is now in the early stages of an anti-tanning message aimed at young people.  Many millennials overlook safety concerns because of higher rates of narcissism and low self-esteem.  She says that is because of emotion-based decision making.

"Your natural skin color is the most beautiful skin color you have," said Watson. 

Coles agrees and a new tattoo she recently got reminds her to never skip the sunscreen. 

"She is shielding herself from the sun, because she does not want to get cancer," said Coles.