Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sunburn Rates Going Up

I spent the Fourth of July with my good friend/former room-mate Jenny and her wonderful family. Everyone enjoyed a SunSavvy holiday; our little parade-going, barbequeing, and fireworks-watching group was lathered up in sunscreen, and several of them talked about different parts of the Only Skin Deep? book. (People are actually reading the book! How wonderful!) Many of them were talking about what they learned about sunscreens, and why some people burn easily whereas others tan. We had several discussions about how the sun is so intense here in Utah. It is always so nice when people ask me questions about skin cancer and sun protection. I never tire of the almost-incessant "preaching" about sun safety. The fact that skin cancer is so preventable - 95% preventable - is a message of hope. And to be bring people a positive, and extremely pertinent message is not only a responsibility that I take very seriously but is a privilege and a blessing. Each discussion, each article, each message - we are saving lives from a very preventable disease. (Though, Jenny probably wishes that I wouldn't talk about it all the time, even at her family gatherings).

Speaking of preventing sunburns, I received an email from the Utah Cancer Control Program that stated more Americans are getting sunburnt than ever before. And, much to my dismay, Utah ranks second (next to the U.S. Virgin Islands) in the number of people who get sunburnt every year (and how often).

I wish that the report indicated the reasons why more people are getting sunburnt. Is is because people fail to apply sunscreen? Is it because nearly all the sunscreens at the grocery store fail to provide sufficient sun protection? Is it because people aren't being educated about proper application, and reapplication, of sunscreen?

Interestingly, high-risk states* such as Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, ranked lower on the list. In fact, Arizona has fewer people get sunburnt than any other state in the country. This is amazing considering the fact that there are more than 300 days of sunshine in Arizona. It would appear the sun safety education programs in Arizona are making a profound impact.

Alas, Utahns are still "not getting it" when it comes to proper, year-round sunscreen use. While I continue to distribute sunscreen samples out as if they were candy, I have my work cut out for me. I a lot of work to do in educating people, especially young adults and families in Utah, about sun safety. Occasionally, I wonder what's it going to take? Do you have to lose your 21-year-old brother, like my dear friend/co-founder Natalie Johnson-Hatch did? Do you have to face melanoma as a young mother like my colleagues Robin Lawrence, Lisa Chase, Catherine Poole, and Shonda Schilling did? What's it going to take for people to recognize the importance of proper sun protection? Is it that it's just too simple? The fact that skin cancer is so preventable, people think that it must not be a serious and potentially deadly disease - is that it? As I teach skin cancer prevention, I am also learning. I'm still thinking, still pondering, still searching, and still praying for insights and answers - what can I do to positively impact the community, and save lives from this unnecessary yet very real epidemic?

To learn more about what you can to protect yourself from skin cancer, how to find an effective sunscreen, and about programs available in your area, pick up your copy of ONLY SKIN DEEP? An Essential Guide to Skin Cancer Programs and Resources. You will learn valuable tools about reducing your risk for skin cancer, and support the cause!

I also invite you to contact me for a complimentary sample of Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen -- the best stuff on the planet, in my book. (no pun intended).

Be SunSavvy,

The Cancer Crusaders Organization
PO BOX 2076 Provo, Utah 84603

* high-risk meaning that residents are at a higher risk for skin cancer due to environmental factors such as days of sunshine, higher land elevation, etc.

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