I am one in a million, but I’m certain that you don’t want your child(ren) to be one of this million.
More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year. I was fortunate to have the “good” kind of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma. Although I have a scar on my face, I’ll be around to watch my beautiful girl grow up. That said, it wasn’t what I expected at 35. I’ll have to vigilant the rest of my life, as my diagnosis also significantly ups my risk for melanoma.
On average, one American dies from melanoma every hour, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). The American Cancer Society says that melanoma is also one of the most common cancer in young adults, especially young women. That makes it especially important to discuss with our tweens and teens how they can keep themselves safe when in the sun. (And certainly not in a tanning bed. Don’t even get me started.)
There are many of aspects of our children’s health and well-being over which we have no control. Our children’s sun exposure, and the subsequent risk of skin cancer, IS something we can control to at least some extent.
Today, in honor of National Melanoma Day (or Melanoma Monday), and because May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, here are some tips for staying safe and keeping UV rays at bay.
Every parent I know would move mountains to protect their little ones but in this realm, Herculean effort isn’t required. Sometimes you just need to pop open a bottle of SPF 30. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers advice for protecting children from the sun here, and they include:
- apply sunscreen with SPF 30 as recommended by the AAD, before you head outside, even on cloudy days;
- reapply sunscreen frequently and use enough to really cover the body – usually a shot glass full;
- wear hats and sunglasses to protect the eyes and face;
- wear protective clothing, like long sleeves, a rash guard that offers SPF protection at the beach or some of the other options when playing outside;
- find shade when you’re outside.
The Mayo Clinic offer advice on sunscreen for babies here.
I get that it’s hard to consistently do all of this. My daughter was a pro at taking off and losing hats from about 6 months of age. I have yet to find a little league field with ample shade.
But when you’re out soaking up that Vitamin D, be careful. Be smart. Keep your kids safe. Please.
While you’re at it, do the above for yourself. Not only does it set a great example for your kids, being proactive can make a big difference when it comes to all kinds of health issues, including skin cancer. Keeping yourself safe and healthy is a great gift to your children.
Also, screen yourself and you partner if you have one. Research shows that women are 9x more likely than men to find melanoma on others. You can find tips and a video by the AAD showing you just what to look for here.
If that’s not enough to convince you to be cautious, let me appeal to your vanity. Putting on sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses is a small price to pay to not be the parent sporting the large bandage or sporting a scary scar on your face. Trust me on this one.
Even more importantly, though, you just want to be there and be healthy. Take care of yourself and protect you and those your love from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
* This is not intended to be medical advice. Your pediatrician, doctors and health care providers can advise you on what treatment and sun prevention is best for you and your children.
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