Making Headway With Our Youth
“Wait an hour to swim after you eat.”
“Don’t run with scissors.”
“Eat all your food, there are starving children in (name your country).”
How life has changed
These were some of the things our parents told us when we were kids. Of course, I am talking about being a child of the 1960s and 1970s. Before the internet and cell phones, it seemed that our biggest concerns centered around eating, running, and swimming - ah, when life seemed so simple! Things are a bit different now.
Do young people hear our message about preventing skin cancer?
There are so many messages bombarding our young people today. I often have wondered what kind of effect my message (indeed, our message) regarding safe skincare practices is having with young people. Are they listening? Do they even care? Do they feel as invincible as I did when I was their age?
Are we making a difference?
I wonder these things in the context of having lobbied in the New York State Senate for bills that limited/banned teen indoor tanning. I think about the seemingly million times I have communicated with youths about using sunscreen in groups, private conversations, in print, or online. Am I making a difference? Are WE making a difference?
Positive results for prevention for young people
A recent study indicates that we are. According to research from the University of Washington, melanoma rates among young folks are going down: "...melanoma incidence decreased in adolescents (ages 10-19 years of age) and young adults (ages 20-29) after peaking around 2004-2005”.1 This is certainly good news!
Can we have long-lasting effects on young people?
As an aside, the article noted that melanoma rates continue to grow among older folks, which makes sense since melanoma is linked to prolonged sun exposure over time.1 This leads me to another encouraging point. If incidences of melanoma are going down for teens, then might we expect that when these younger folks are middle-aged, that their rates will be down as well? If our message about taking precautions and getting checkups is getting through, then might we have changed an entire generation.
Dedicated to preventing skin cancer
Both of my kids are out of the house now and if I am being honest, this has been hard for me. I miss them. I miss my role in their lives. I know that I will always be their daddy and their independence has been the goal. At my age, I still want to feel like I am making some difference, that I can still help others. I want to leave a legacy of service to the community. The journal article makes it clear that I can. “For healthcare providers, parents, caregivers, teachers, etc. continuing to promote and enforce UV-protection during early childhood may be showing a positive impact already, and continued efforts could truly make a difference.”1
How can I make a difference in preventing skin cancer too?
Here are some practical ways to continue showing this positive impact:
- Be a great example for others with your own skincare practices.
- Be a person of influence by speaking out individually, when appropriate.
- Be a community advocate by being involved in local civic groups.
- Be national influencer through online involvement and government lobbying.
- Be informed by doing your own research.
We are leaving a legacy for which future generations with thank us.
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