Skin cancer accounts for about 50 percent of all cancers diagnosed, and about one in five people will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives.
But itís also one of the most preventable types of cancer because 90 percent of the cases are caused by excessive sun exposure.
Itís a fact that is especially hard-hitting this year, and this is national skin cancer month. As Iíve previously written, earlier this year I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. Luckily, I underwent surgery that successfully removed it. But I now live with a large scar on my face as a reminder of the danger of sun exposure, and must get checked quarterly to ensure it doesnít come back. I now live with a constant reminder that I must be cautious and very aware of my skin.
Itís something that many young women donít really think about ó I know I didnít when I was a teenager or college student. Granted, I rarely frequented tanning beds in college and only occasionally laid out at the pool or beach. But it doesnít take much. Iím proof of that.
As the weather warms up and everyone heads outdoors, itís important to be aware of the risks. In recent years, Iíve been good about slathering my kids, who have inherited my fair skin, with sunscreen. I make sure my little boy, with his white-blond hair, always wears a rash-guard shirt with his swim shorts and wears a hat despite his protests. But, I donít know that Iíve been as careful about myself, other than spraying a low-grade SPF and sitting in the shade when it gets too hot. That will change this year.
Parents, when you slather your children with sunscreen to protect their skin this summer, donít forget about yourself.
On airplane flights, they always caution parents, in the case of an emergency, to place your oxygen mask on yourself before your children to ensure you get the air you need to take care of them. Thatís the way I now think of sunscreen. Itís not only important to protect your kidsí skin, but just as important to take care of your own. After all, you want to be there for your kids in the future. Skin cancer isnít worth the risk.
Here are some tips from skin cancer.org on how to protect your skin:
ó Always apply sunscreen, year-round. Try wearing a moisturizer that contains SPF and apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Apply every two hours you are outside.
ó Make it part of your daily routine. Teach your kids about sunscreen and ensure they know never to leave the house to spend time outside without sunscreen.
ó Wear a hat. It will help cover areas that are hard to apply sunscreen to, including your scalp, ears and neck. It will also protect your face.
ó Consider clothing and swimwear with UPF protection. It will help protect your skin more than regular cloth.
ó Take a break. Never stay out in the sun all day long. Seek shade in the peak afternoon hours when the sunís rays are at their strongest and you are at the highest risk for getting burned.
ó Check your skin and be aware of your moles. If anything is new or changing, see your doctor.
Reach Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News columnist Lydia Seabol Avant at 205-722-0222 or email her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com. Visit tuscmoms.com to read her blog.