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Smear on sunblock with zeal
Be zealous about slathering sunscreen on your children

Date published: 6/11/2006

IT'S SUMMERTIME already, and everyone's heading out- side more and more, which means I'm on the summer safety soapbox. People at my gym avoid me because I lecture everyone who walks into the tanning booth in the locker room--and flash them a picture, in my phone, of my husband with a huge chunk of skin cut off after his latest skin-cancer removal.

Yes, it's rough to be a fair-skinned 44-year-old who grew up in Phoenix with no sunblock. Now I bug him about sunblock all the time. But like many of the tanners at my gym, the damage is already done, and more skin cancers are an inevitable fact of life.

At 44, or even 30, you can be a zealot about sunblock for the rest of your life and still get skin cancer, because the majority of the damage was done before you were 18. Sun causes the vast majority of skin cancers, so it's very preventable. That's where we, as parents, have to come in.

Whatever you believe about global warming and the loss of the ozone, it is an undeniable fact that skin cancer is on the upswing, especially in younger people. Rates in the U.S. have climbed about 3 percent per year in the last 25 years. So be an overprotective parent when it comes to sunblock, hats and sunglasses for your child. Use an SPF of 15 or higher, with UVA and UVB protection.

Don't let your kids go out without it, just as you wouldn't let them ride without a car seat (let's hope).

Keep babies in the shade with their skin covered as much as possible, though you can apply sunblock to babies under the age of 6 months, when necessary.

Darker-skinned people don't burn easily but should still wear sunblock. They are at lower risk for skin cancer, but still can have significant damage to skin cells from the sun.

Anyone whose skin darkens in the sun is sustaining damage. Ultraviolet rays damage the skin cells, and the cells respond by making more melanin, which darkens the skin. So tan skin is damaged skin--there is no such thing as a "healthy tan."

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