Growing up, actress Genesis Rodriguez never worried about sun exposure. “Being from Miami, I've always been out in the sun,” she says. “There are no real winters here, and I didn't really have any knowledge about melanoma.”

That changed after Rodriguez's grandmother and great uncle were both diagnosed with an aggressive form of skin cancer, melanoma. “My great uncle lost almost half of his nose when he had surgery, and my grandmother carried around this shame, because it was all over her arms, her forehead and her nose. Thank God for the Melanoma Research Alliance, because they've found new, more effective ways to treat melanoma.”

CANCER, EXPOSED: Until her grandmother and great uncle were diagnosed with skin cancer, Genesis Rodriguez had never thought much about melanoma, despite living in Miami under constant rays of sun. Photos: Omar Cruz

A new perspective

For the actress, who's had roles in “Identity Thief” and the Spanish-language “Prisonera,” this was a wake-up call. “I saw that sunblock is really necessary. I realized melanoma can be caused by one bad sunburn or from walking the dog around the block every day. It's not something that only happens after you've been exposed to the sun over a long period of time.”

“I realized melanoma can be caused by one bad sunburn or from walking the dog around the block every day.”

Rodriguez promotes skin cancer awareness by urging everyone to find a dermatologist for regular check-ups. “Start by looking at your skin and asking yourself, was that mark there last year?” She credits her relatives' frequent doctor visits to early detection of their melanomas. 

BROAD SPECTRUM: Rodriguez is a strong supporter of daily sunscreen use and urges that those with darker skin, like herself, still take caution, as darker skin does not lower the risk of developing skin cancer.

She is also quick to point out that having darker skin or tanning easily does not offer protection. “When I'm in the sun, I don't get burned. I just get darker. So I thought I must not be at risk, but that's a complete myth.” While looking tan in Hollywood is always trendy, she shudders to think of visiting a tanning salon. “That makes me cringe. Just the idea of paying someone to give you skin damage is awful.” Instead, she uses self-tanners and make-up. “Everyone is seeing these tan actresses, but it's fake – and it's not taboo anymore. Don't be ashamed to say you use self-tanners.”

Staying clear

But more importantly, she wants everyone to remember the sunscreen – and not just when headed to the beach. “Using sunscreen daily, that's the most important thing,” says Rodriguez, who uses SPF 30 sunscreen daily. “It should become your everyday habit. It doesn't matter if it's cloudy or even snowing, so put it on every day.”