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. I will dispense this advice now."

Mary Shcmich

It’s springtime in Washington, D.C., and soon — because D.C’s spring is all too short — summer will be upon us. So will the summer sun. And it’s impending arrival, along with a couple of things that reminded me of it this week, inspired me to reiterate to my fair-skinned friends the advice above.

The first was the result of a meeting at work, held on our office building’s rooftop patio, after which a couple of my coworkers ended up with mild sunburns. The second was this Washington Post column about one woman’s experience with skin cancer — basal cell cancer on the nose, to be exact — and a vacation spent worrying that she might have to have her nose removed as a result.

One passage in particular brought back my own memories of witnessing sun damaged skin.


Among some of the younger adults I know, the same attitude prevails: "People always say that if you’re pale, you look like death, but if you’re tan, you look healthy," said a 29-year-old girlfriend of mine who lives in Arlington. (Her mother has a 12-inch scar from her hairline to her neck, the result of skin cancer removal.)

Changing the skin’s natural color can come back to haunt you later. You can end up with dark patches, leathery skin, premature wrinkles and other skin problems that probably look a lot worse than your pale skin did. "People are very short-sighted in terms of what makes them look good at the moment versus what will be harmful down the road — especially young people," notes Fuchs.

Wear sun screen. Admittedly, I have a little less to worry about in that department, though I have had one actual sunburn in my lifetime (on my back, from falling asleep by a pool), but I

During my last couple of years in college, I spent the summers working on campus. Summer in Georgia brings out the sun worshipers. It was nothing to see people sprawled out on towels where ever there was a empty patch of grass in the sun. I worked in the education library, and saw up close and personal the faces of young women who were prematurely aged by their tanning activity, and more mature women who looked older than their actual years and whose skin bore a resemblance that of a roasted, basted turkey — again, because of lots of time spent getting suntans, as well as the inevitable, occasional burns.

The columnist’s experience reminded me of those young women, and made me wonder how many of them have had to deal with cancers as a result of sun exposure and sun burns. Reading her story made glad that my own fair-skinned hubby slathers on sunscreen anytime we’re going to be outside in the sun for an extended period, and sees his dermatologist regularly just in case there’s something that might be caught early. So far, so good.

And even though Parker and I have a slight melanin-related advantage in that arena, we both put on sun screen if we’re going to be out in particularly strong sun for a long time. I’ve had one sunburn in my entire life (during high school, when I fell asleep outside next a pool) I’d rather not repeat the experience.

So, to my fair-skinned friends, if I have to wear it even occasionally, you should be wearing it regularly at this time of year. In fact, you have more need of it than I do. So, keep some handy and put it on if you’re gonna be out in the sun. From now until, say, late September just don’t leave home without it. Because I’d rather you not get skin cancer, or any other kind of cancer.

So, wear sunscreen.

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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