As you all know, I have preached about sun safety before (you can read the blog post here) and Practice sun safety every day.
In the last week, I have had this message rammed home to me even further through a series of events which have hit me fair on the nose and are unavoidable.
However, tonight I had to have a discussion with a young adult about her instructor telling her that wearing a Rashi during the middle of the day (WHILST SWIMMING) was not compulsory – even though this institution is “Sun Smart” .
This young adult is a 13 year old typical female teenager – fashion conscious, worried about her peers esteem of her, not wanting to be “different” from the crowd.
Since when is being fashionable and cool more important than having a cancer-free body, in an era where Cancer is so highly discussed and avoidance taught?
Is being fashionable worth the scars, the chemotherapy, the radiation therapy, and the long term effects of these radical measures sometimes needed by cancer sufferers?
I used to hate going to the local pool in my elbow length, knee length sun smart swimming suit onesie, but looking back now, I know my mother sacrificed my fashion for my health – and I couldn’t thank her enough. Yes, they were dorky, and horrible, and I got teased incessantly for it, but my shoulders, back, chest, arms and legs are free of cancer. So was this sacrifice worth it? H-E-Double-hockey-sticks YES!
My parents have taught me about what happens with skin cancers, and the ramifications of not being sun-smart, almost too well. I find myself looking at peoples sun burns and thinking “Nice Mole you have there… Is it Malignant?” and feeling grateful when I see parents swimming with their kids and the kids are covered with sunnies, a hat, a onesie (like my dreaded one) and zinc and sun cream.
There are ways to be sunsmart while being fashionable – we all know floppy hats and big sunnies are the “in thing” again – so why is this message not getting through to the fashion conscious teenagers in our midst? Why does it have to take a family member getting skin cancer to make them realise “Hey, this shiz can happen, it does happen,” but they still not get the message enough to act on it? Yes, sunscreen is a great tool to use, but each sunscreen has a different SPF rating and is water resistant for a different amount of time. Do the kids know that you need to let it sit for at least 15-20 minutes before going in to the water? Do they know that after only 45 minutes in the water, sunscreen’s effectiveness drops by up to 25%?
Big, loose shirts are another “in thing” – You could wear these with the tie up at the side, your floppy straw hat and huge sunglasses and still be in “fashion” while being sun safe and protected.
If you go to an unshaded area to swim, take a big umbrella – recline back with your book in the shade and people are going to think you’re tres chic.
The most dangerous hours of the day in a great Australian Summer is 11AM till 3PM – encourage your friends to go swimming after this time and educate them on why. Educate them on ways to still be fashionable but stay safe.
I know that to a teenager, being fashionable is incredibly important. Like, Totally Important! (Omg, Sisi, I can’t wear that! I don’t want to wear Harry High Pants and look like a dork!) But look at the long term – is it worth a melanoma, or a carcinoma, or any other type of skin cancer which will have you checking your skin for the rest of your life?
Fashions last generally a season… Your skin, and any cancer on it, will be with you forever. Is it worth it?