Fight cancer: slather on sunscreen (and other tips to keep your kids and yourself safe)

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, and I recently found out that I have it. I’m fortunate to have the “good” kind, basal cell carcinoma, and although I’ll have a scar, I’ll be around to watch my beautiful girl grow up. But I certainly didn’t expect this at 35.

My parents were great about slathering my brother and me with sunscreen, I just didn’t follow their good example on a few spring breaks. Apparently, not all parents are as vigilant as mine were, and don’t even get me started on the crazy “Tan Mom” who reportedly took her red-headed five year old into a tanning bed. Infuriating.

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.

Every parent I know would move mountains to protect their little ones.  Sometimes Herculean effort isn’t required, though.  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, preferably SPF 30 as recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology, before you head outside, even on cloudy days, and reapply it frequently;
  • wear hats and sunglasses protect the eyes and face;
  • consider having your kid wear protective clothing, be it long sleeves, a rash guard or some of the other options out there;
  • 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 and I have yet to find a little league field with ample shade.  Of course outside time is important and has its own health benefits.  But when you’re out, be careful.  Be smart. Keep your kids safe.  Please.

While you’re at it, do the above for yourself, and get screened by your dermatologist. Not only does it set a great example for your kids, it will protect you.  Keeping yourself safe and healthy is a great gift to them.

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. Trust me on this one.

Even more importantly, though, you just want to be there, so 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 and doctor can advise you on what treatment and sun prevention is best for you and your children.