Monday, March 19, 2007

Sunscreen Evanlegist

I live in a town that is sandwiched by two college campuses. It takes me exactly seven minutes to walk up to one of these campuses. It is, in fact, the university my best friend is currently attending. At any rate, I had to run several errands on campus this weekend in preparation for her ballet recital. (She is an amazing ballerina). I usually enjoy my walks up to campus. It gives me time to think and get a little exercise, at the same time. This weekend, with the wonderful spring weather, it was particularly enjoyable to walk up to campus and see the blooming flowers, hear the birds sing, and see people giggling with glee. Spring has a tendency to bring out the lighter, more positive side of people.

That is until you start seeing the campus littered with students laying out in the sun and soaking up the the sun rays, without a bottle of sunscreen in sight.

On Friday afternoon, I counted 42 students basking in the sun. On Saturday morning, I counted another 68. No sunglasses. No wide-brimmed hats. No sunscreen. No protection. We live in Utah! Don't they know that, due to our higher land elevation, we are in closer proximity to harmful ultraviolet radiation? Do they not know that skin cancer, particularly melanoma-- the deadliest form, is affecting more 20-somethings than ever before? Do they not.....know?

There I was walking across campus with my wide-brimmed sun protective hat with the national Skin Cancer Awareness symbol embroidered on the front. I was wearing an orange and yellow summer dress and orange flip flops, but by skin was adequately lathered up with Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen. As I peered through my 100% UV protective sunglasses, at these sunbathers, I became increasingly irritated. I mumbled under my breath, What on earth are you people doing? Sure, this is smart! Let's try to achieve a sunburn or damaging tan as we attempt to achieve a degree. Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Why do I take this so personally? Why am I offended when people deliberately fail to protect themselves from skin cancer?

It is not so much that I am personally offended; rather it scares me to think of what could happen to people if they don't properly protect themselves from the sun. It worries me, it frightens me, it makes me want to pull a Red Rider Wagon filled with bottles of Blue Lizard Australian Suncream and pass them out, coupled with a plea "PLEASE PROTECT YOURSELF! YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF AND TO THOSE WHO LOVE YOU TO PROTECT TOURSELF! YOU CAN ENJOY THE WONDERFUL WEATHER, JUST BE SMART ABOUT IT!"

In sum, this scenario makes me realize, yet again, that there remains, even with recent media reports of the dangers of tanning and ultraviolet radiation, a disparity between an awareness of skin cancer and knowledge about skin cancer. While I was shaking my head in dismay and disappointment, wishing that I could climb on a soapbox and, with a megaphone in hand, talk about the importance of sunscreen, it occurred to me that THIS is the reason why I wrote this book. We need to provide more education to people, especially young adults. We need to do more. There is so much more work to be done. And so, the fight - this "crusade" - continues...

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