A few weeks ago, I dragged my family to a local park for a free, skin cancer screening program sponsored by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. We had visited a dermatologist last year for a full-body exam, but there were one or two spots that required follow-up. Considering how high my co-pays are, I was happy to have the opportunity to get some peace of mind for free. Even if that peace of mind involved the words “age spots.”
It was an overcast, rainy day. While we stood on line, Colette Coyne of the CCMAC (Colette Coyne Melanoma Awareness Campaign) talked to us about skin cancer. Her daughter, Colette Marie Brigid Coyne, had died from melanoma in 1998 at the age of thirty, and she and her husband set out to increase awareness, especially among young people, about the dangers and causes of skin cancer.
She made a good point about reaching out to children. Years ago no one wore seat belts, but now kids get in a car and remind adults to fasten theirs. If you educate kids, the behavior modification carries on to future generations, as well as influencing some of the “new trick”-challenged old dogs among us. And it’s probably best to get to them before they become teenagers and are influenced by the standards of beauty promoted by magazines, television, and the movies. A desire to look tan often results in baking in the sun or in a tanning bed. Not a good idea.
Colette engaged my son in conversation and presented him with a shirt made from sun-protective fabric (a regular tee shirt offers little protection, and even less if it’s wet), a hat, sunglasses, and a bracelet that changes color in the presence of ultraviolet rays. She directed him to walk out in the rain while wearing the bracelet. He did and it turned purple, despite heavy cloud cover—a powerful lesson that you need to protect yourself even when you can’t see the sun.
We’ve all read or heard about the dangers of ultraviolet radiation. In 2004, I had my photo taken with a UV camera and was horrified to see how much sun damage I had even though I’d never been a sun worshipper. Despite being inundated with facts and news reports about skin cancer, I sometimes think it goes in one ear and out the other. “It can’t happen to me.” In the last few years, however, several people in my extended family, all under the age of 40, have been diagnosed with melanoma. I, therefore, urge all of you to click here now to learn more about what you can do to protect yourself and your family. There’s no need to become hysterical or paranoid. With a bit of common sense, some inexpensive items, and a few minutes spent in preparation each day, we can all enjoy healthy lives.
Many thanks to Colette Coyne and her family for sharing their story with us and helping to make a difference. Contact her for information on bringing the Be Sun Smart® program to a school near you.