Monday, April 27, 2009

Do You Know Your ABCD(E)s?

We are all protective of our children’s skin – slathering them with sunscreen, covering their heads with big floppy hats, and keeping them out of the sun at the most intense hours of the day. We need to remember to take the same precautions for ourselves.

Five years ago, I noticed a strange new mole on my leg. It grew quickly, but I didn’t think much of it until it started to itch and bleed. My dermatologist wasn’t particularly concerned, but he wanted to take it off just to be safe. Thank goodness he did because it the mole was melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer. Following additional surgery, I was lucky to learn that there was no sign that the cancer had spread beyond the original site; however, my view on sun safety has changed dramatically since my diagnosis.

Back to the ABCD(E)s:

"E" is relatively new - it stands for Evolving - any mole that is new or changing should be checked by a dermatologist. (For the record, my melanoma looked just like the first "normal" example shown above, but it grew very quickly.)

Here are a few recommendations from the American Academy of Dermatology for good sun protection practices no matter what your age:

1. Avoid deliberate tanning. Lying in the sun may feel good, but the end result is premature aging (wrinkles, blotchiness, and sagging skin) as well as a 1 in 5 chance of developing skin cancer. Tanning beds and sunlamps are just as dangerous because they, too, emit enough UV radiation to cause premature aging and skin cancer. If you like the look of a tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product. These products do not protect skin from the sun, so a sunscreen should be used.

2. Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin every day. The sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and be broad-spectrum (provides protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays – look for products containing zinc oxide, parasol 1789, or meroxyl).
Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to help protect against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered by the Academy to be the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. So when applying sunscreen, remember to “slop!” it on.
Here are a few more tips:
• Don’t forget your ears, nose, neck, hands, and toes. Many skin cancers develop in these areas. Protect your lips, another high-risk area, with lip balm that offers sun protection with an SPF of 15 or higher.
• Sunscreen should not be used to prolong sun exposure. Some UV light gets through sunscreen.
• Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplied every two hours.
• Be sure to reapply sunscreen after being in water or sweating.
3. Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible. This is what Australians call

4. Seek shade when appropriate. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

5. Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

For additional information, please see The Melanoma Research Foundation or The Shade Foundation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sticker Shock

S turned four last month, and many of her friends and playmates are taking ballet. One such friend was over yesterday, and S swooned over her friend's ballet slippers and leotard. Having recently resigned myself to the fact that, in spite of my best efforts, S has a serious girly streak, I took some time to investigate ballet lessons at local studios. The strongest barre in the world wouldn't have supported me when I learned that most require NINE MONTH COMMITTMENTS to the tune of over $800 (not including shoes, leotards, tutus, recital costumes, etc.).

First of all, signing a four-year-old up for a nine-month committment is akin to asking her to do this forever. I mean, five minutes is a long time in S's world. Secondly, how on earth can I justify that kind of $$$ when she may hate it - correction - she may not like it after a week? Yes, I could sign her up through parks and rec for a "ballet" class, but the purist in me needs the big mirrored wall with the barre and the little girls in their pink leotards (side note: A was VERY upset to learn that boys don't - usually - wear tutus). Maybe start there and if she likes it suck it up for the big leagues? Or keep my fingers crossed that she falls in love with tennis (starting Friday).

Basically, how do you know 1) when your child is ready to start a new activity 2) how many to have going at once 3) when/if to let them stop once they've started (not in general, but in the middle of a series of classes/lessons)? I was the kid who had a very short attention span and liked this for a week and then that the next week - and got to stop when I didn't like it. In retrospect, that probably wasn't a great life lesson - when you grow up there are plenty of things you have to follow through on whether or not you want to do them. Not that the lessons you learn when you're in preschool stick with you throughout life, but I tend to think that unless it's causing some sort of real harm to a child, making him/her see through a (reasonable) committment to something is a good lesson to teach, no matter the age.

Anyone out there with ideas/experience with this?