Editor's Note: No really, wear sunscreen

“Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.”

– Mary Schmich

I’m not sure how many other members of the Class of ’97 paid attention to this sage advice when Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich used it in her print version of a commencement address, but I sure was.

I’m something of a sunscreen fanatic. I slather it on my children every summer morning and other days they will spend mostly outside. I hound and harass my husband to wear it, at least when he mows the lawn, but I have yet to consistently win that battle.

(Actor Hugh Jackman recently had a basal cell carcinoma removed from his face, and urged his Twitter followers to protect themselves from the sun. But not even “Wolverine says you should wear sunscreen” can get my husband to put it on every time, though he does remember to put it on the kids.)

Myself, I began wearing sunscreen daily, summer and winter, when I was in my teens. For years, I would lie out in the sun baking like my classmates, trying in vain to achieve a golden glow. Some of them tanned beautifully; I, on the other hand, only turned a darker shade of pale.

So, around age 16, I decided if I couldn’t be tan, I would go for really white, and I started slathering on the sunscreen. My best friend – a natural redhead with fair, freckled skin that would burn if she even thought about lying out – and I comforted each other by talking about how one day we’d go to a class reunion and see the skin of the golden goddesses we went to school with had turned to leather.

Protecting oneself from the sun is more than just vanity, but I find that people who shrug off cancer risk (it won’t happen to me) sit up and pay attention when you talk about premature wrinkles. 

I’m sure I don’t have the persuasive power of Mr. Jackman, but if you’re still reading, here are a few facts to ponder from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

• Each year, there are more new diagnoses of skin cancer than of cancers of the breast, lung, prostate and colon combined.

•About 86 percent of melanomas and 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are related to sun exposure.

• 24 people die of melanoma every day.

• Melanoma is the only one of the seven most common forms of cancer whose incidence is increasing.

• A person’s chance of developing melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

• Daily use of SPF or higher sunscreen cuts melanoma risk in half and cuts squamous cell carcinoma risk by 40 percent.

Cream, gel, spray, whatever, put on sunscreen and a hat and protect yourself this summer. If the cancer risk doesn’t convince you, do it to prevent wrinkles or to save yourself the itchy pain of a sunburn. Whatever reason works for you, just do it.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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