By Tiana - James Beard Award-Winning Chef and Restaurateur
May 05, 2014
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Happy Melanoma Monday 34757

After this too-long winter, I am grateful to see the sun shining and to not be wearing black tights anymore. However, today is Melanoma Monday, a good reminder of the importance of sun safety.

I have very fair skin (I gave up on trying to get a tan decades ago), and have had many suspicious moles removed. Fortunately, none of them have been malignant, but I still get my skin checked by my dermatologist twice a year. As much as I'd like to skip wearing sunscreen sometimes, I know that it's as beneficial for my health as eating well and exercising.

Parents advisor, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician and mom of two young children, wrote a great article in our June issue with smart advice for protecting your whole family. She admits that she got much more serious about sun safety after she was diagnosed with melanoma herself.

I joke with my kids (and my husband) that I am the sunscreen police in our family, but it's true. We have tried many different brands of lotions, sprays, wipes, and sticks to find the ones that everyone is willing to use. The same goes for hats. Attention sports fans: One study found that kids who play outdoor sports are twice as likely to use inadequate sun protection and get burned than those who don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't let your kids play outside, but try to avoid activities at midday—and insist on sunscreen even if it's cloudy. I'll never forget how I got sun poisoning (with fever and chills) on a long boat ride on a very cloudy day in Montreal, when I wasn't wearing a hat. And since the intensity of the sun doesn't always correlate with the temperature, it's eye-opening to check out the daily UV index.

It is true that most of one's lifetime sun exposure happens during childhood—and that sunburns early in life can be the cause in skin cancer decades later. That is a key reason why we need to be serious about sun safety with our kids, but it doesn't mean that adults shouldn't continue to take precautions. In addition to walking on the shady side of the street whenever possible, I have finally given up the gel manicures I loved because research shows that using those UV driers was like taking my hands to a tanning salon.

That said, I'm looking forward to having fun in the sun. Check out these amusement parks and other spots that offer free sunscreen. I hope it's a nice today where you are today!