April 8, 2019

When Becca Kittelson leads her spin class, she reminds her spinners to wear sunscreen year-round between shout-outs to “go for speed” and “finish strong.” For this certified personal trainer, proactive skin care is an important part of her health routine.

In early 2017, she scheduled her first appointment at Mankato Clinic Dermatology to get her skin checked. A member of her spin class battled stage four melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Today he is cancer free.

“He inspired me to get my skin checked,” Becca said.

At 35 years old, Becca is married and a busy mom of three schoolaged children in North Mankato. She understands a lot of women her age don’t take time for themselves because they’re taking care of everybody else.

As a program coordinator and instructor at Fitness for $10 in Mankato, she is a positive role model for members. With a place in front of the class, she regularly reminds participants—including busy moms—to get skin checks and wear sunscreen.

“If I can just inspire one person,” Becca said.

Fair-skinned, Becca began to notice moles and blemishes. She has had several moles removed from her back, legs and chest. Her biopsy results have identified the moles as precancerous. That’s good news.

“I look at my scars now and it’s peace of mind that I’ve taken care of myself,” Becca said.

She sees Crista Wilkening, APRN, CNP, in Mankato Clinic Dermatology. Upon Crista’s recommendation, Becca schedules skin checks every six months. Crista expects Becca will graduate to annual skin exams in the future.

“A patient’s risk for skin cancer does increase with a history of precancerous lesions,” Crista said. “Removing precancerous moles is preventive care.”

Crista tells people to look for the “ugly duckling” or the mole that looks different. Watch for new moles and growths. Notice if the mole is changing, itching, burning or bleeding. Other warning signs for moles are
asymmetrical, irregular border, variation in color or larger than a pencil eraser. If you spot it, get it checked out.

“I am starting to notice things that look different. Crista is really good about taking the time to listen,” Becca said. “So far everything is OK. It’s very reassuring that we’re catching it before it does turn into something worse.”

There are three types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and usually develops on the scalp, face, nose, neck and hands. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops on the face, ears, lips, hands,
arms and legs. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.

“The earlier skin cancer is caught, the better the prognosis,” Crista said.

While Becca was never a tanner, she got sunburns in high school and college. She also enjoyed the sun when she took her kids to the pool. In fact, most of our skin damage occurs in our teens and 20s.

The American Academy of Dermatologists says a tan is your body’s way of protecting your skin when your skin is damaged by the sun’s rays. “Tanned skin is damaged skin,” Crista said.

These last two summers, Becca has been the palest she has ever been. When her family took an island vacation recently, she enjoyed being outside but she stayed covered. Taking Crista’s advice, she returned with no tan!

She wears a wide-brimmed hat to cover her ears, scalp and neck. She will sometimes throw a towel across her lap or shoulders poolside. Becca seeks shade and loads up on sunscreen. While you can’t always keep kids in the shade, she teaches her kids to protect their skin and wear sunscreen.

“We go through a lot of bottles of sunscreen,” Becca said.

A full skin check can help detect skin cancer early when it is most treatable. Risk factors for skin cancer include fair skin, sunburns, excessive sun exposure, moles or a family history of skin cancer.

To learn more, visit www.mankatoclinic.com/dermatology or call 507-389-8538.