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When people ask me how I got into the field of dermatology/oncology nursing and skin cancer prevention, I reflect back on a childhood memory. From the red headtime I was in kindergarten, I would delight in telling my friends “I can see your epidermis” delivered as one of those obnoxious taunts. Their reactions showed me that I had correctly guessed that they did not know that “epidermis” was the medical term for the skin. Today, I wonder if I was just being a vocabulary bully or having a flash of my future professional life.
Fast forward 50 years and I am still choosing vocabulary words to make an impact on people. Today, however, I am not trying to taunt with my words but rather to educate and motivate children about sun safety. Because my training and experience has taught me that sun damage in childhood leads to skin cancers in later life, this is where education and motivation must begin. For this reason, I started Children's Melanoma Prevention Foundation in 2003.
Experts now estimate that there will be 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer this year alone. One person dies every 45 minutes from this preventable disease. Prevention is the key to reversing this frightening trend. And it must begin in childhood.
Tragically, skin cancer in the last thirty years is steadily rising among children. This trend is most likely due to the increased incidents of sunburn among children and the popularity of indoor tanning among teens. This, coupled with my firsthand experience in caring for patients dying of skin cancer, is why the foundation’s work is so important to me personally.
The Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation was founded to teach children and their caretakers safe and proven methods of sun protection and skin cancer prevention. How do we do this? Specifically, we teach children about the factors that affect UV intensity and skin sensitivity, as well as proven methods of sun protection and skin cancer recognition. We do this not through fear tactics but rather through fun and informative activities. Each year we teach thousands of children, teachers, nurses, and parents in the hope that we can empower them to practice what we preach, Be Safe. Be SunAWARE.

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