As a recent college graduate, I have just booked a summer trip to Greece. I immediately started thinking about the amazing hot weather, which of course means fantasizing about that beautiful summer glow I will get. To be prepared for my trip I started thinking about going to a tanning salon (something I would never normally do) to get a base tan so I would not burn. After a serious internal debate featuring the risks of tanning versus looking good … I made my usual decision to avoid UV rays and their harmful effects.

This recent thought process got me thinking… How did I end up so diligent about sun protection? Why as a young adult do I never step foot in the sun without sunscreen? Why do I never go to tanning beds? The answer to all these questions stems back to the article I read in Cosmopolitan back in 2009 when I was 17 years old.

The article that changed my life was called “Death by Suntan”, written by Stephanie Booth. It told the story of a young, healthy woman who was diagnosed with melanoma and unfortunately lost a devastating battle with the disease. I obviously knew deadly melanoma is and why sun protection is so important… but this article was different. It hit so close to home it shook me to the core.

22 year-old Glenna Kohl, the young woman who lost her battle with skin cancer, was exactly like me. The two of us were young, athletic and vegetarian. Most importantly, like myself, Glenna was a lifeguard who spent her summers outdoors. She didn’t always wear sunscreen while working, just as I hadn’t during my job as a lifeguard. Also like myself, Glenna enjoyed a few sessions in the tanning beds to maintain that summer glow.

As I was reading the article I remember thinking that she was going to win her battle with cancer by the time the article was finished. She couldn’t possibly die from this. When I got to the end of the article I found myself in tears. Glenna had lost her battle with melanoma. The similarities between myself and Glenna made it so easy for me to picture myself developing cancer as Glenna had if I continued to use tanning beds and avoided using sunscreen during my summer job as a lifeguard.

For the past 6 years since I have read this article I have been extremely diligent about sun protection, a decision which could have possibly saved my life. Had I not read this article I could have gone five summers working outside without wearing sunscreen. I could have continued to enjoy my sessions in the tanning beds, or like Glenna, I could have ended up with the devastating disease that is melanoma.

I just want to say thank you for publishing this article back in 2009. I can honestly say this article singlehandedly changed my views on tanning. Now as a young adult I am informed and diligent about sun protection and I owe that to this magazine.