Sun Safety Essentials!

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I am thrilled to be attending my first Mom 2.0 Summit at the end of the month! Bloggers from all over the country and even Canada are gathering in Scottsdale to share ideas and inspiration. I am lucky enough to live in Arizona so I can drive with some friends to attend!

I know many people are looking forward to soaking up our beautiful Arizona warmth and weather! And by golly, we look forward to sharing it! But, there is danger associated with our sunshine I’ve faced firsthand.

I am a fair-skinned red-head and grew up in Arizona. I wore sunscreen most of the time, never laid out in the sun nor went near a tanning bed. Yet, the UV is so extreme in Arizona, I ended up being diagnosed with melanoma (the bad skin cancer) at age 29.

I’ve been on a 6-year journey battling lung and brain tumors and want everyone to avoid what I’ve been through. Here are some tips so you can enjoy our beautiful weather and avoid injuring your own skin and risking your health.

Who wants cancer or to look old prematurely?
Not you?
I thought so.

Slip, Slap, Slop and Seek Shade

UV levels are highest between 10am and 4pm. I looked up the UV levels at the Phoenician over the next 4 days. You can clearly see from the image below when you need to use sun protection!

My mantra for when I teach sun safety for children is, Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat and sunglasses, Slop on sunscreen and Seek shade outside!

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Does Sunscreen Cause Cancer?

Updated July 9 with additional resources

This article claims that wearing sunscreen and avoiding the sun causes cancer. It has exploded on the web today. What do I think? Well, the easy answer is to quote my friend Timna’s (Respect the Rays) response to it.

“Total Fucking Bullshit.”

I alsofind this spread of misinformation sickening. Since my diagnosis I’ve had lots of misinformation passed on to me. Much of the melanoma community is quick to respond “I tanned and have melanoma!” I understand this gut instinct. “Learn from our mistakes, we cry!” But, let’s talk strategy in examining and refuting articles like this. While personal stories are incredibly compelling, we need to be aware of fallacies in our arguments AND in the crap like this that is promoted online. I could name a number of friends who have melanoma and tanned. I am a person who didn’t tan and has melanoma. How do we draw a scientific conclusion based on this testimony?

I could also tell you I have friends who didn’t use car seats when children and they survived. Sure, but are the children who died in car accidents here to tell their stories? No. This isn’t a perfect example for melanoma and tanning but it shows the flawed logic that is sometimes used with personal experience arguments.

Instead, let’s see if we can refute this with a more methods based, scientific approach. Specifically for this article.

  1. First let’s check the source links at the bottom of the article. The source is here.   When we check the link, the article linked doesn’t cite the study. Merely mentions it with an affiliation. IF this is information found in a real study, why is the original study not mentioned?
  2. Is realFARMacy.org an unbiased source? No, clearly based on their URL, they are against conventional medicine, which means they most likely distrust the FDA which regulates sunscreens. This bias should be recognized, especially when realfarmacy.org claims to cite scientific studies. How do they trust some and not other studies? My guess is they are cherry picking their facts to support their claims.
  3. The actual study can be read here.  Good luck. In my reading, I was surprised to learn that the statistics related in the original article aren’t based on death from melanoma or skin cancer. It is based on all deaths without considering cause. The study also discusses vitamin d deficiencies in those living further from the equator (like in Sweden) and that this may play a role compared with high UV areas like Australia and the southern United States. Was this mentioned in the tabloid-like headline of the original article? Nope! All in all the study seemed fairly subjective. Survey based, threw out previous cancer cases, didn’t include risk factors for melanoma such as red hair in some of their statistics. Seem like fishy evidence on which to base a conclusion to you? Sure does to me.
  4. So does sunscreen cause cancer? This study doesn’t mention it. Lack of Vitamin D may contribute to mortality rates, but we can get vitamin d in safer forms than sunbathing and tanning beds.

I am planning on discussing more about how to discern claims about sunscreen and sun safety in future posts. Hopefully this information will be helpful in all areas of your life. I am not against holistic medicine.

I AM living 2 years beyond when I was expected to die because of evidence based medicine.

I will continue to be passionate about educating others to find good information and empower them to make the best decisions for themselves and their families! (This is my own personal testimony, biased based on experience, but meant to show my passion to educate others!)

For a fun video about fallacies in thinking and how our brain likes to trick EVERYONE into seeing patterns which aren’t really there, check this out!


“…maybe you can find some evidence that say’s you’re right, but you’ll have to ignore a whole lot more evidence that says you’re wrong. When we filter evidence to support that conclusion and ignore what disagrees, we are victims of confirmation bias.”
“And that’s why science was invented. A way to fight the human tendency of assuming that what we see is what’s true. Instead of starting with a conclusion, and filtering out all the data that doesn’t agree with it, science starts with an explanation and does everything possible to prove it wrong.”
“Science, above all else, requires a desire to disprove ourselves. It’s a sharp tool that we use to poke holes in our ideas, so we’re sure that they’ll float. And unless we do that on a regular basis, our princess will forever be in another castle.”

Update: Since I posted, other reputable sources have also released responses to the original article. Check them out if you want further information.

Seven Easy Sun Safe Tips!

Beach photo

In September of 2009 when I was diagnosed with melanoma, Daniel and I met with a sun safety educator after my first doctor visit. I’ve lived in sun safety land for a long time, but this weekend when I was speaking with a group of girl scouts I was reminded that not everyone has the privilege of meeting personally with a sun safety educator. So, here is a quick reminder of the basics of sunscreen that I teach when I am asked to speak to groups.

  1. Make sure it’s labelled “broad-spectrum” and at minimum SPF 30
  2. Read the directions!
  3. Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure
  4. Use a lot, don’t miss a spot! Don’t forget the scalp, ears, neck and lips!
  5. Sprays- Spray until you see it, then rub it in
  6. Cover with clothing whenever possible! (Especially UPF clothing)
  7. Don’t forget broad rimmed hats and sunscreen 1397004_10152042693775809_602037830_o 1604832_10152287278270809_2077659736_n

Sunscreen Spray Dangers

sunscreen spray

Well, duh…

“You should never apply a product labeled as flammable while you are near a source of flame. In the five incidents reported to FDA, however, the burns occurred after the sunscreen spray had been applied. The ignition sources were varied and involved lighting a cigarette, standing too close to a lit citronella candle, approaching a grill, and in one case, doing some welding. These incidents suggest that there is a possibility of catching fire if you are near an open flame or a spark after spraying on a flammable sunscreen—even if you believe you have waited a sufficient time for the sunscreen to dry and your skin feels dry.”

Read the full FDA report here.

In the news this week…

“For sunscreen spray products, the agency requested additional data to establish effectiveness and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally.  These requests arose because sprays are applied differently from other sunscreen dosage forms, such as lotions and sticks.”

I’m not sure why this was  in the news cycle this week as the FDA inquiry was published in May 2012, but I addressed my concerns about sunscreen spray here. The FDA article is here.

Perhaps we should avoid these products? I have used sunscreen spray a few times in the past couple months and I feel flammable for hours afterward and can’t get the alcohol smell out of my nose! Yuck!

I do think the lotion forms of sunscreen spray seem to avoid most of these issues. And in ANY case, any sunscreen is better than none. Don’t forget to read the directions and wait 15 minutes after application to give the sunscreen time to work! It also helps to spray until you see your skin is wet, rub it in and then reapply and rub again! If you are taking the time to apply, take the time to make it work for you!

Don’t Fry Day! Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month is winding down with the end of May and today is the last day of school for my kiddos! This summer break we plan to do lots of swimming, playing soccer in our backyard, and geocaching. It will involve lots of time enjoying the outdoors in our beautiful desert home.

When I was first diagnosed with melanoma, I was afraid to be outside in the sun. With time and practice I have learned with a little thought and planning I can enjoy outdoor activities and still protect my skin! This is also the time of year I am purchasing new sunscreens for the summer.

Today, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, is designated as “No Fry Friday.” A good time to do a little sunscreen and a sun safety reminder. So, if you are doing your summer sunscreen purchasing right now like I am, here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider what to buy.

  • SPF 30+ Sunscreen needs to be SPF 30 or higher to be effective
  • Broad spectrum Make sure your sunscreen protects you from both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) radiation from the sun
  • Reapplication Make sure to apply generously and reapply according to the directions on the bottle
  • UPF clothing and hats as well as sunglasses provide additional and necessary protection when outside!
REI sun protective girl's swimsuit

Horray for UPF swimsuits and sunglasses!

I am often asked my opinions and recommendations on sunscreen products for children and adults. Whole Foods is a good place to locate mineral based sunscreens free of nano particles and potentially dangerous chemicals like oxybenzone. I wrote about my concerns about oxybenzone in my post FAQ2: How to Evaluate a Sunscreen.

Whole Foods Market Speedway Tucson

Whole Foods Market Sun and Skin Care Section

Beginning tomorrow, Whole Foods is offering 30% off Sun Care Products from May 23rd thru 26th. The family and I went to Whole Foods on Speedway to check out their selection for you.

All Natural Moisturizing Sunscreen

DeVita Solar Protective Moisture SPF 30+

DeVita Sunscreen is made locally in Phoenix!

We found a new favorite sunscreen today. DeVita Solar Protective Moisture Sunscreen SPF30 Made in Phoenix, AZ. Short ingredient list. Rubbed in beautifully. All natural. Sold!

Much smoother than most zinc based sunscreens

Abby models the smooth texture of Devita sunscreen.

No chalky residue after rubbing in sunscreen

DeVita sunscreen rubbed in quickly with no white residue!

For my very local friends, the Whole Foods Market Oracle store remodel is due to finish and reopen at the end of August. Yay! You can follow all Tucson locations on Twitter for updates! Stay tuned for upcoming reviews of other sunscreens we tested out today. We found a few great new brands and one we’d skip! Enjoy your Memorial Day and don’t forget your sunscreen!

Free snacks for tired children!

Thanks to Whole Foods for offering my tired children a sample without even knowing I was writing a review!

Not an ad. I purchased this product on my own dime. The link above is an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy with the link, I get a very small percentage of what you pay to help offset my review costs. I only review sunscreens which I would use on my family and myself based on basic requirements such as broad spectrum and a minimum SPF of 30.

My Mom has Melanoma by Abby

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Reading messages from other melanoma warriors during the Pass the Parasol campaign.

A guest post by  my sweet daughter, Abigail Bishop, age 7. I didn’t edit her writing.  She refers to “mela-no-mas” because of our melanoma walk team name. We just don’t have the heart to correct her because it’s so stinking cute! I also love that I asked her to tell me “what it’s like when your mom has melanoma.” She came up with the term “my experience” all on her own!

 My experience with having a mom with mela-no-mas is very scary because i think she will always have mela-no-mas. I really hope my mom stops having skin cancer. My mom has skin cancer because she had a mole that changed on here back. To avoid skin cancer you have to get skin checks once a year and if you see a mole that changed tell your doctor.

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Art Abby made for me after the melanoma walk. Nov 2013

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When Mom has melanoma your friends will come walk with Team Mela-no-mas!

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I am always sunsafe on safari!

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Even if your mom has melanoma, she still might take you on your first trip to Tiffany and Co to try on jewelry!