Sunscreen and Hats to Prevent Skin Cancer

Did that title grab your attention? Good!

When Joel and I were growing up in Imperial Beach back in the 70s we didn’t worry much about how the sun was affecting us. We were out in the sun every day and most of us thought getting ‘tanned’ was cool. Since we’re both fair skinned we often got burned. Sure, once in a while my mom put sunscreen on us. But there wasn’t the education back then we have now on the effects of sun and skin cancer.

Fast forward 20 years to 2001. I was 36. The large freckle on my neck that everyone remembers me always having got noticed by my youngest sister one day. She hadn’t seen me in a couple of months. She told me she thought the spot looked bigger. I looked in a mirror and felt around and realized that I could now ‘feel’ it whereas before it was always just a flat surface.

I immediately went to the dermatologist and had it biopsied. Sure enough I had melanoma. I remember sitting at work and getting this news. My boss and co-workers were all very supportive. The doctor said we caught it early and he thought they could completely remove it. So I went in one morning and had a 4-inch long section of my neck cut open and the melanoma removed. They got it all! It’s been 10 years and never have I had a recurrence. I actually have quite a nice face lift! :)

A few years later in 2007 Joel’s doctor said that some bumps on his face were basal cell carcinoma. His was a bit more wide spread and the surgery was very extensive. They pulled and tugged and moved some skin around. He too is now cancer free. Our children have a higher risk I’m told of getting skin cancer now though.

So here in the hot New Mexico sun I’m slathering sunscreen on my face and neck before I go out. I need to get in the habit of doing it for Fiona as well. I wear my sunglasses, Joel has his always, and now Fiona has a pair in the van. She and I both wear hats a lot when we go out.

Recently an acquaintance posted on Facebook that she was sunburned but that it was the only way to get a tan. Please, please, please don’t think you need to get sunburned to get a tan. You don’t need the tan that badly. They have this great self-tanning lotion you can use now. It’s not worth the scare when in 20 years you find out you have cancer. It’s not worth having your child wonder if you’re going to be okay when they find out you have skin cancer. Sure we’re all fine now. But it could have ended differently.

Wear your sunscreen and hats!


  1. Important message Sue!

    When I lived in the Okanagan I started the sunscreen in April. Just part of the morning routine … wash face, moisturize, sunscreen on all visible parts.

    Now, living where the sun is less intense I allow myself to be concerned about the chemical composition of sunscreen. I still use it if I am planning to be outside for a lot of time, or if I am exposing rarely exposed bits, but mostly I wear lightweight clothing with sleeves and some length. (It can be amazingly cool inside a long, loose dress.) And I always wear a hat if there’s a hint of sun and I’ll be in it for more than 10 minutes. And, then, I stay out of the sun. I walk in the shade, I garden in the morning, I’m not a big swimming fan and lying on a beach is about reading and enjoying the view … all which can be enjoyed beneath an umbrella or tree with short forays into the sun for some over-heating happiness and then tuck back in.

    I stay whiter without sunscreen – sunscreen promotes tanning – and by the end of the summer I am still the palest kid at school!

  2. Just as I prefer natural hair color to dye, I prefer natural skin tones to anything that looks artificial, including intentionally-tanned skin.

    If we’re gonna be in desert areas much (not my favorite option) I wanna get myself a nice broad canvas hat and carry my shade around with me. (The Spanish word for “hat”, sombrero, means “shade-maker.”)

  3. Very important! Ryan just bought me a massive floppy hat that I’m wearing around this summer, and after not caring most of my life, I am wearing sunscreen everywhere. Seeing my Grandfather at my wedding with an entire ear missing because of skin cancer…that’s a REAL motivation to wear my sunscreen and cover up even when it seems like a hassle.

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