Today, at only 26 years old, I got my first skin cancer spot removed. Soon, I’ll go back to the doctor to have my sutures taken out and my wound checked. Later, I have an appointment to get my whole body checked for more spots that may be skin cancer.

I’ll have to go to the doctor regularly for skin exams for the rest of my life, and will probably have to go through the painful experience of having more skin cancers removed in the future.

I wish I could tell 16-year-old me to never start tanning. As a teenager, I tanned almost every day for four years. I didn’t realize at the time how much damage I was doing to my skin.

As a mother, I will try very hard to make sure my children never tan, in a tanning bed or in the sun. Hopefully, seeing what their mama went through will be enough. I want them to know that the skin they were born with is perfect, just the way it is.

I want to tell everyone—protect your skin when you’re outside in the sun! Tanning is so not worth the scars and pain of having skin cancer.

I remember seeing skin cancer posts on Facebook and thinking, “Oh, that will never happen to me.” But it turns out, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that people get in the United States, and most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds.

Now, I’m the mom at the beach with an umbrella, a cover-up on, and sunscreen HEAVILY applied, and so are my kids. It takes a little extra planning before we go out, but I’ll do anything I can to avoid having to go through this again and to protect my kids from having to experience the same pain that I’ve had. It’s worth the effort!

This article was originally published on April 26, 2018, by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is republished with permission.