Skin Cancer and Me – our 1st Anniversary, and My Gift to You

Blog June 27, 2012

On the first day of the little man’s camp, as I was putting a bottle of sunscreen in his cubby for reapplication during the day, I was told by his teacher/counselor that I couldn’t leave the sunscreen because

(a) some children may try to eat it, and

(b) the teachers are not permitted to put sunscreen on the kids.

Although this struck me as utterly nonsensical, I didn’t fret too much about it because I was told that in this camp program, the kids only play outside in the morning and not again thereafter.  Therefore, the sunscreen that I put on him before drop-off should suffice.

For quite some time I have planned to devote this week’s article to sun protection and sharing with you some of my top picks for savvy sun protection resources – in light of the fact that Summer is now in full swing, and this week marks the one-year anniversary of my own melanoma diagnosis.

I think of these children everyday now, hoping they’re healing quickly.

But when I saw Sunday’s article in the Huffington Post about 2 children who were forced to spend 5 – yes FIVE – hours outside for “Field Day” and were refused sunscreen because of school policy – with images of their tomato red swollen burnt skin – my blood just began to boil so fiercely I could hardly stand to read the whole article (and it’s quite short).

So, while this post was originally intended to be in a lighthearted “Best of” format, I feel compelled to share with you this important video and some raw data so we’re all clear on what we’re talking about here first.  Then we can talk about what kind of sunscreen to use, and where to get great-looking sun-protective clothes.

Know this:

  • ONE bad sunburn before the age of eighteen DOUBLES your risk of getting melanoma.
  • Skin cancer is by far the most common of all cancers.
  • The development of melanoma on the trunk (chest and back) and legs is widely linked to an individual’s prior sunburns, especially those that occurred in childhood.
  • One-in-50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
  • Compared to people who had never used a tanning bed, indoor tanners had a 74% increased risk for melanoma.
  • Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide.
  • The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50 percent in young women since 1980.
  • Melanoma primarily affects individuals in the prime years of life, is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old.

You can’t go back in time and undo your childhood sunburns, or take back those visits to the tanning bed, but together we can work harder to protect our children and to be diligent about checking our own skin for changes.

The Melanoma Research Foundation says the best way to prevent skin cancer is to:

  • Seek shade.
  • Cover up with clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Apply sunscreen with a sun-protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection.  Reapply every two hours, even if it’s cloudy, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Examine your skin often and take note of any changing or new moles.

Here’s What I Wear:

My favorite swim shirt is this one from Athleta.  Love the piping, the fit, and the pocket, and it’s UPF 50.

Also loving these t-shirts and beach pants from Coolibar – all also UPF 50+.

These come in 15 different colors.

I love these in white.

Cabana Life has a more feminine line of rash guard shirts with matching bikini bottoms – these are on my wish list:


For the little man:

Sunbusters and Coolibar both have great stuff for kids.  All can be ordered online.  Just remember, rash guards should be long-sleeved.

Check out Hillary Fogelson’s blog, Pale Girl Speaks, for more terrific clothing recommendations.


Daily, on my face, under make-up: DeVita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+  (DeVita’s having a Summer SALE right now!)

It’s not greasy. Love.

On my body parts that aren’t covered by clothing, daily:  Original Sprout Face & Body Sunscreen SPF 24+

On my body, when I’m going to be outside for more extended periods of time (i.e., on a bike ride, at the playground, by the pool, etc):  California Baby No Fragrance SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion or DeVita Solar Body Block SPF 30+

Widely available (incl. Target)

Goes on easily and feels luxurious.

And on the little man:

The SAME stuff!  Don’t buy all the “Kids” and “Baby” marketing mumbo jumbo.  It’s bologna.  High quality, zinc-oxide-based products that are all-natural and paraben-free like the above products are waaaaay better than something that’s labeled “Kids” or “Babies” – many of those products contain toxic chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, methylparabens, and more.  Read the ingredient labels, not the marketing on the front of the bottle.

Check out Pale Girl’s recommendations for many more amazing product options, and terrific guidelines for what to look for and what to avoid.  And if you’re ever in doubt, check out your own product on the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen database – they’ll give you an objective score.

Note:  While having and using a quality sunscreen is great, it’s only effective if you use it properly.  The actual dosage of sunscreen required for it to block as much sun as the SPF suggests is a shot glass full.  If you’re using SPF 15 but not enough of it, it’s more like you’re using SPF 4.  The other major mistake is failure to reapply.  If not swimming, minimum reapplication is every 2 hours.  But if you’re swimming, then it’s more.

Last, but not least, CHECK YOUR SKIN.  Only YOU can know if a mole is new, changing, itching, or bleeding.  If you’re not sure what to look for, learn your ABC’s here.

Ok, I’m off to pack for our weekend at the beach now!  Practicing sun safety = many more happy summers! xo

I know you all have additional products and recommendations, so please share in the comments below!  I’d love to be introduced to some new resources for great looking sun-protective clothes and other sunscreen options for the whole family!

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  • Sherry Schneider says:

    Wow….what a powerful video! I am going to share it with as many people as I can!

  • Ann says:

    Our camp also mentioned that there are strict rules about counselors reapplying sunscreen to children. They’ve asked that we provide spray-on sunscreen, which is definitely not as effective as the liquid kind, but better than nothing. The Skin Deep database ( has good info about sunscreens in general, and I was able to find a few good spray options that don’t have all those yucky chemicals….

  • I’m new to this whole wordpress blogging but I wanted to let you know that you have some great insight. I am a melanoma survivor and now as of yesterday battling again. I created my blog on so people like you and many others can follow along on my journey for a cure of melanoma. My main goal is to inspire others either battling or that knows someone that is battling. Positive Energy Activates Constant Elevation.

    • Stacy says:

      I’m so happy you found my blog, so I can follow yours. You’re an inspiration. What a gift to be sharing your journey with the world – you are absolutely right, Positive Energy Activates Constant Elevation. I’m printing that in a huge colorful font and taping it to my wall right now. Love and light your way, friend.

  • Rachel says:

    Thanks for writing this Stace. Having a little one in camp and working at a camp, I feel very strongly about this. I douse my daughter in suncreen from head to toe every morning because they have the same policy at her camp. At my camp, we always tell parents to apply sunscreen in the morning, but welcome them to send it in their children’s bag so counselors can reapply if necessary. It is so important to protect our children from sun burn/damage.

  • Lely says:

    Great Video and great topic for discussion – everybody needs to be aware of the damages that the sun can cause.

  • I was diagnosed with Lupus SLE about 18 mos ago at my dermatologists appoinment. i asked why is my face so red in the middle of the she sent me for a blood test sure enough it was lupus have been seeking a shadier way of life then this summer I had a squamous cell carcinoma on the side of my face near my ear. It grew to the size of a big blueberry. Thankfully it was totally removed I had 22 stitches right on my hair line.
    Since then I have opened an all sun protective clothing store in Ocean City NJ called Yolo Sol . I specialize in stylish clothing that saves your skin while still felling cute. Please visit and leave me a message.

    • stacy says:

      Such amazing positive ACTION, Victoria! Going to check out your site now – thanks so much for visiting the blog and letting us know about the store!

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