My husband and I spent hours on end playing at the beach both in California & Massachusetts when we were kids, and now our children do. Truth be told, I kind of love little tan kids running around all summer. Somehow, summer captures for me what being a kid really is. Tan, sandy, salty skin... Popsicles melting down your arm.... laughing and splashing in the waves. The point is, my family will always be a beach family. It's who we are and it is ingrained in our souls. My husband loves to surf and sail, I hope our boys will too.
So, the question for us is never going to be, "Do we go to the beach?", the question is, "How do we do it safely?"
California Girls... And I would imagine girls & boys from sunny locals all over the world, grow up constantly exposed to the sun. And while we may all love being a cute tan Gidget... Most of us (almost all of us) will end up with some sort of sun damage.
Of course I use tons of sunblock on my kids all day everyday at the beach or the pool. But I will admit to being guilty of not remembering to put it on their faces every day during the school year.
I mean honestly, if they have all have their homework and have brushed their teeth by the time we scramble out the door in the morning, I feel like I should get a trophy. (Still waiting)
But, the other day my son tagged along with me to my Dermatologist appointment and was lucky enough to see his mama get her face frozen and sliced all in the name of hoping to prevent some really scary sun damage... While laying on the table I looked over at my sweet son and his adorable freckles and I thought... UGGGHHHH I am the WORST for not being more diligent about sunblock everyday for my boys. EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Because I didn't always make the best choices about the sun in my life, now in my 30's I can see the years of sun worshiping starting to take a toll on my skin and I don't want that for my kids. I'm not talking wrinkles although that is a HUGE bummer... I am taking serious stuff, scary stuff that can happen if we don't take care of our skin.
For all of us that grew up in the sun... Here are a few things for all of us to think about.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early.
Melanoma, made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated, it can spread to other organs and is difficult to control. (From MedicineNet.com)
So lets break down those three types of skin cancer so that we can get a clear picture of what each one would mean to us.
1. Basal cell carcinoma- This is the most common type of skin cancer... With more then 2 million cases being diagnosed in America each year.
This skin cancer usually develops on skin that gets sun exposure, such as on the head, neck, and back of the hands. BCC is especially common on the face, often forming on the nose. It is possible to get BCC on any part of the body, including the trunk, legs, and arms. Oh and don't forget the ears! Our ears get sun all the time and we often forget to put sun block on them.
You may be familiar with this type of skin cancer because Hugh Jackman has been working to draw public attention to BCC and raise awareness since he has had to have numerous spots removed.
Another scary aspect of BCC is that they are very hard to see and so you can miss discovering it for quite a while.
2. Squamous cell carcinoma- With 700,000 cases a year in the States, SCC is the second most common skin cancer. This is a cancer that develops in the thin, flat squamous cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed.
This skin cancer tends to develop on skin that has been exposed to the sun for years. It is most frequently seen on sun-exposed areas, such as the head, neck, and back of the hands. Women frequently get SCC on their lower legs.
It is possible to get SCC on any part of the body, including the inside of the mouth, lips, and genitals. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is usually not life-threatening, though it can be aggressive in some cases. Untreated, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin can grow large or spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.
3. Melanoma - The most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma can also form in your eyes and, rarely, in internal organs, such as your intestines.
Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That's why it's so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.
The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma.
SOOO after reading all that information the take away is that prolonged exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. So tan from a can it will have to be if you want to stay gold.
We all need to really think about what we are doing to our bodies.
We need to be diligent about our hats, glasses and rash guards. We need to limit our hours of exposure and set up camp under umbrellas at the beach. We need to be diligent about applying sunscreen to ourselves and our kids... I know sometimes we are so rushed to get the kids covered we forget ourselves and our partners.
Looks like all of us Gidgets have to take a cue from Larue! Did you know there is a right way to apply sunscreen and a wrong way? Here are the rules from the American Academy of Dermatology.
Follow these tips from dermatologists when applying sunscreen:
- Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage, which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Follow these helpful tips when selecting a sunscreen.
- Apply sunscreen generously before going outdoors. It takes approximately 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the sunscreen and protect you. If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn.
- Use enough sunscreen. Most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount you can hold in your palm, to fully cover all exposed areas of your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin.
- Apply sunscreen to all bare skin. Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected, or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating. People who get sunburned usually didn't use enough sunscreen, didn't reapply it after being in the sun, or used an expired product. Your skin is exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you are on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen.
Here are some amazing tips from Things We Heart on what brands of Sunscreens we recommend.
What to look for- You want a Physical Sunscreen and not a Chemical one. Look for Zinc and/or Titanium Dioxide only in the list of active ingredients. Physical sunscreens (100% mineral based) actually block the suns harmful rays, while a Chemical one absorbs the rays and chemically alter them. The chemicals also mimic hormones in your bodies and can disrupt growth, metabolism and reproduction
Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime. So it is important to remember to put sunblock on our kids faces every single day.. Because those cute sweet freckles today are tomorrows headache for your kids.
Most importantly, and we can not stress this enough, is to find a Dermatologist that you trust and have regular checkups.
Did you know you should be giving yourself and your kids a skin check every month? That way you are aware of when things are changing or becoming worrisome.
Here is how you do it!
If you have made it to the end of this, thank you for reading we know it was a lot of information, but we feel it is so important to raise awareness about skin cancer and sun damage. Both of us have had to have little weird spots snipped off and so many of our friends these days are talking about it and going through the same experience. If you grew up in the sun and are now paying the price, rest assured, you are not alone.