While talking with my younger son last night, I noticed that he has a nice healthy-looking glow from playing outside more now that spring is (finally) here. After such an awful winter, it seems that everyone just wants to be outside.
Then it occurred to me that while he may look healthy, that glow is not necessarily without cost because I had forgotten to put sunscreen on him in the morning. My kids are not toddlers anymore. No longer are they at an age where I can lotion them up from head-to-toe for ten minutes before they head outside. Now they just grab their sneakers, open the door, and go.
As parents, we worry about chemicals in our food supply and on our lawns, but we do probably not pay enough attention to the ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight, the most common environmental carcinogen.
It only takes a few bad sunburns to put someone at risk for melanoma, regardless of their age or complexion. Having pale skin and freckles, doctors have always told me to make sure that I am wearing my sunscreen. Yet the truth is that everyone can get skin cancer. And those of us who are parents should stay on top of it, because long-term exposure to UVR can lead to both skin cancer and premature aging of the skin.
Skin cancer is actually the most common type of cancer in the United States, and last night’s reminder of the need to keep my kids safe also turned into a reminder that it is time for me to get a skin check at the dermatologist. About one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point during their lifetime. Someone in this country dies from melanoma every single hour.
Though we cannot avoid the sun entirely, there are some ways to help protect yourself and your loved ones. Here’s how to protect against skin cancer:
- Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. You should also wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. You can easily protect your skin with clothing.
- Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Also make sure that it has an SPF of at least 30.
- Apply sunscreen every day of the year, regardless of the weather.
- Apply that sunscreen generously to all exposed skin. From your ears, your neck, and your scalp all the way down to your feet.
- Reapply sunscreen often. (Experts suggest every two hours.) Also reapply after swimming and sweating.
- Avoid direct sunlight and stay in shady areas if possible. Remember that water, sand and snow intensify the rays of the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds as they too have UV light that may cause premature aging of the skin and potential skin cancer. You can use self-tanning lotions instead to get that healthy-looking glow.
- Check your skin often for signs of skin cancer. Know your skin, freckles and moles so that you can detect any changes.
- Go to the dermatologist if you notice any changes or irregularities. Even if it may it seems insignificant, have it checked by a professional. Head to the doctor if you have a mole that is: not symmetrically shaped, shaded or blurred on its border, a color that differs from other moles, larger than a pencil eraser, or changing in its appearance. Any of these can be signs of skin cancer.
For more information, head on over to SpotSkinCancer.org.
When was the last time you had a skin check?
Disclaimer: This is not a compensated post. It has been written in honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month. #SPOTskincancer