The Surfer Girl and Skin Cancer: Prevention

After two melanoma diagnoses, I will now spend the rest of my life preventing extraneous sun exposure. The first and most obvious prevention method is to stay out of the sun. As a surfer girl, and basically as a human, this is impossible for me. But there are ways to practice sun safety.

Surf Early: I have started limiting my time at the beach to off-peak hours; the sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so before and after are more ideal times to frolic in the ocean or on the shore. The good news is that the waves are better in the morning. So in the future I will plan to be out of the water at 10 a.m., and I will make sure I am am in the shade under an SPF rated umbrella if I remain on the beach.

sportsspf45-webWear Sunscreen: The next thing to do is to make sure to wear an SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen year-round. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Until recently, I have just picked up the ubiquitous drug store brand, but I am now more conscious of the how chemicals can affect me—and the earth—and I check the ingredients on sunscreens to be sure they’re safe. The Environmental Working Group offers a great list of the best sunscreens for you and your family. Lately, I have been using Suntegrity (created by a daughter who lost her mother to skin cancer) and I often share my two-year-old daughter’s Alba Kids SPF 45 when we are out and about. When applying sunscreen, make sure you put on enough (about two tablespoons) and reapply every two hours.

Cover Up: As I round the corner of 40, I am perfectly happy to put my two-piece bikini days behind me. I still want to look stylish on the beach, so I have started checking out SPF clothing lines, such as Coolibar, Cabana Life, and Mott 50. I purchased the ZnO Pants from Coolibar, along with their swim tights that I will try out in Hawaii this summer. I also bought a pair of swim tights for my daughter and will pair that with a rash guard for her. I have yet to find the perfect sun hat. It needs to be cute and cool, block the sun but not my vision—and I want to be able to throw into a beach bag without crushing it. If you have any suggestions, be sure to send them my way!

When I surf, I almost always wear a full suit and I have a 3:2 and a 4:3 that work perfectly for me in the cool California water. And, okay, fine, I will probably get a dorky surf hat, or at least surf during the morning hours with a water-resistant sunscreen on my face, hands, and feet.

Check Yourself: Finally, it’s recommended that you perform a monthly self-examination of your skin, and be sure to get an annual examination by a dermatologist. It could save your life!

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