Column: Practice Skin Safety This Summer

Now that the summer weather has arrived, we’re all spending much more time outdoors.  Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a walk around Lake Quannapowitt, or just more time spent mowing the lawn and grilling on the barbeque, this is the time of year during which we have our greatest exposure to the sun.

The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that, “Sun protection is essential to skin cancer prevention – about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informs us that the “sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.”  The CDC’s website offers a comprehensive primer on recommendations for sun protection – everything from seeking shade, to appropriate clothing, hats, and sunglasses, to, of course, sunscreen – on their website at

This is especially important for our youth, who are more susceptible to harmful health effects of not practicing skin safety.  The Skin Cancer Foundation shares these worrisome statistics: “Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.  According to one US study, 54 percent of children become sunburned or tanned in their second summer, versus 22 percent in their first.”

Because of the exponentially harmful effects on children of this type of skin exposure, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Massachusetts has named as one of their top legislative priorities a bill that I am proud to co-sponsor: S. 1229, An Act Further Regulating Tanning Facilities.

The legislation would prohibit the use of tanning facilities by children under 18 years old.  In citing the bill as a top priority, ACS CAN reminds us that, “Prevention is critical in avoiding skin cancer.  Exposure to indoor tanning booths occurring early  in  life  is  a  significant  risk  factor  for  developing  melanoma.”

As Senate Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Health, and as the co-founder of the Legislature’s Prevention for Health Caucus, I’ve become quite accustomed to utilizing Benjamin Franklin’s famous advice that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Rarely is it truer than when practicing skin safety.  So, while making the most of the summer weather and enjoying the outdoors, please do take the appropriate steps to make sure that you and your children reap the benefits of the summer sun while preventing the health risks.