alt=a child hands sunscreen to an adult

Skin Cancer Awareness: When People Get It

“Mike, are you wearing sunscreen?”

Children now asking adults if they wear sunscreen

And with that question, I knew that my world was changing. There is hope. Mike is the best photographer at the bridge on Long Island where I take pictures of bald eagles and other wildlife. The one asking the question was Mike’s niece who is still in elementary school. Mike had the conversation on speaker phone and I could hear them chatting away while I looked for raptors. The tide was turning, at least in my little neck of the woods. Children are asking adults about sunscreen.

Skin protection in the wild

Skin care is now a topic of conversation with many of the people who share my love for photography. People are lathering up in sunscreen and bringing extra for others. Some are in sun-protective clothing. Almost all wear hats.

They have stopped asking me why I cover up so much during the sun months. They know that I had melanoma. I don’t advertise it but I do refer to it when people are curious about my long sleeves and pants in the summer month.

The word is getting out

I see people heading back to their vehicles to reapply sunscreen. I see them heading inside during peak burning ray hours of the day. I hear them talk about getting dermatology checkups. It’s the middle of summer on the ocean in New York and people are talking about the value of good skin care practices and how skin cancer is really cancer and is dangerous.

I love this. It feels like maybe we are having an impact in regard to prevention and diagnosis.

Wide-brimmed hats are replacing baseball hats.

What changed the culture at the bridge? I think the tipping point was when the most influential people started talking about it. When they began applying sunscreen, then others fell in line. It really was about leading by example. Less talk, more do. When you see professional photographers with National Geographic talent putting on SPF50, then the amateurs took notice.

One prominent person makes skin care a part of his photography routine. He has cameras, lenses, tripods, bug spray, sunscreen, and protective clothing. It’s all part of the experience. No need for lectures or shaming. Highly respected people who care for their skin influence others. It’s that simple at the bridge. Advertisers understand this. People follow the example of others who they like and respect.

What does this all mean in our advocacy efforts?

Leading by example

I think this means that we can help others by leading by example. People need to see it. They want to know that you are actually living it before you are talking about it. We all can influence others. Some of us are teachers, business professionals, administrators. Others of us are at all levels of management and employment. We have voice there.

We can have a voice in our houses of worship, our civic clubs and sports teams. Whether we are sons, daughters, mothers or fathers, we can have an audience. We can lead by example. We all have our own “bridge”.

What is your bridge? How can you influence others to protect themselves?

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