As a child  I  never wore sunscreen. NEVER.

I had (have) fair skin and spent most of my summer time vacations in bathing suits running in the sprinkler, spashing in the pool or lakes, camping or building forts. My mother was a good mom but I didn’t burn and if I did it quickly became a tan – none of my friends wore sunscreen. My aunts, mom and their friends all sat in lawn chairs, lathered in baby oil with records covered in foil to help them catch more rays. I grew up thinking the sun on my body, a small burn would turn into a nice tan and that was a good thing – something I should desire not prevent.

In college I worked as a summer camp counselor each summer and we spent almost every sunny day at the pool. I came to dislike the scent of sunscreen as a helped lather the children in every color, scent and brand of sunscreen. I would protect the child’s skin and then spray a SPF 15 sun oil on my body.

Looking back on this I don’t shutter and roll my eyes ashamed. I actually have to stop and remind myself to not do this every summer because of the dangers. I know that my skin has taken a beaten and now that I’m in my 30’s I see the sun damage. I notice the hyper skin pigmentation from the skin damage on my face and there are several moles that I worry about. My body is covered in moles, moles that will be inspected tomorrow – for the first time in five years.

This scares me. Two moles on my face have changed shape and color and I’m scared these will need to be removed and I’ll need a surgery. I’m scared that my years of no sunscreen and tanning will mean skin cancer. I’m nervous that when I’m older I’ll look really old because of wrinkles on my face. My appointment tomorrow comes on the heels of the Grey Anatomy Show and the simple fact that it is Skin Cancer Awarness Month.

Skin Cancer Awarness Month has been around since I was two years old, 1979 and still after all of these years people still get burned, where unsafe sunscreen and don’t wear sunscreen at all. I’m guilty of this.  Learning that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and that it’s more common that breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined – I wonder when was your last skin exam? Right now there are several free exams happening throughout the U.S. Find a location near you before the month ends.

Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun:

1. DIY Skin Exam. Look for changes in moles sizes, coloring and do this monthly.

2. Sunscreen of SPF 15 everyday. Check out the EWG Recommended Sunscreen guide for choosing sunscreen without the harmful toxic ingredients. Protecting yourself on all fronts is very important.

3. Shade from 10am to 4pm. This is when the UV radiation is strongest and can actually penetrate through glass! Wear a hat when outside or have the children play in the shade, if possible.

4. Say No to Tanning Booths. They are not safer and they admit 12 times more than outside light and they make you more at risk.

5. Be a Role Model for Your Children.  Show your children that it is cool to wear sunscreen and  protect your body.

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