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Mary Mills Barrow

My name is Mary Mills Barrow. I’m a wife and mother of three, a full-time writer and sun protection activist. I studied in the United States and in Australia and it was in Australia that I first became aware of the problems caused by unprotected exposure to the sun. (Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world.) When I returned to the U.S. with my entrepreneurial husband, I was horrified at the epidemic of preventable skin cancer here.

With my husband, I co-authored “Sun Protection For Life: Your Guide To A Lifetime Of Healthy & Beautiful Skin” (New Harbinger Publications). Although certainly not a best seller, the book provides the framework for skin cancer prevention and detection habits and introduced the acronym “SunAWARE” which was later endorsed by a number of not-for-profit organizations working in the field including the Dermatology Nurses Association, the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation, and The Melanoma International Foundation. The book also won our first Gold Triangle award from the American Academy of Dermatology.

In addition to “Sun Protection for Life,” I’ve written two books aimed at children and teens which incorporate the SunAWARE acronym and will help educate young people about the importance of beginning good sun protection habits early in life. These books won the Gold Triangle Award from the American Academy of Dermatology this year.

In the meantime, my husband and I founded Coolibar, a sun protective clothing company. Although I am no longer active in the running of the company, I believe Coolibar offers the best sun protective clothing on the market today and I will occasionally discuss its products, although always with the caveat that I do have an interest in the company. In that spirit, I’ll mention that Coolibar was just awarded the Seal of Recognition for its clothing from the American Academy of Dermatology, the first sun protective clothing company to be so recognized.

Currently, I’m working with a variety of organizations, including the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation to develop classroom lessons for each of the five steps in the SunAware acronym.

The Author's web site

Best Boomer Towns Columns

“Protect your Scalp from Skin Cancer”

A young friend with a receding hairline recently asked if bald men are more likely to get skin cancer on their scalps.

Unfortunately, the answer is yes, skin cancers are more often diagnosed on scalps of men who are bald than those who are not.

However, according to an article by Dr. Ida Orengo, professor of dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Mohs Surgery Center at the Baylor Clinic in Houston, a full head of hair does not necessarily protect you from getting skin cancer on the scalp. "Dark thick hair gives more protection compared to blond wispy locks, but some type of extra protection should be used at all times."

All types of skin cancers can be diagnosed on the scalp. The three most common are squamous, basal and melanoma. And, unfortunately, a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Arch Dermatol. 2008;144(4): 515-521) have found that people with scalp or neck melanomas die at nearly twice the rate of people with melanoma elsewhere on the body, including the face or ears. Further, the study found that patients with scalp or neck melanomas were older (59 years) than patients with other melanomas (55 years), and more likely to be male (74 percent versus 54 percent, respectively. In addition, scalp and neck melanomas were thicker (0.8 millimeters) than melanomas at other sites (0.6 millimeters) and more likely to be ulcerated. Lymph node involvement was also more common for patients with scalp or neck melanoma.

Protect your scalp by wearing a hat with a three-inch brim made with materials that have been tested for UPF levels. This is part of the SunAWARE advice - W - Wear sun protective clothing including a hat with a three inch brim and sunglasses.

The best hats have tags showing a rating of UPF 50+. Do not rely on shampoos and conditioners that include SPF ingredients. While these may help, protection will be uneven, and you are not likely to "reapply" every two hours while exposed. Further, remember to check your scalp when you routinely check your skin.

How to Check Your Scalp:

Catherine Poole at the Melanoma International Foundation emphasizes the importance of checking your scalp as part of R in SunAWARE- Routinely check your skin, understand your need for vitmin D, and report any concerns to a health care provider.

Using a hair dryer and a comb, make parts through your hair - one row at a time - over the top of your head and down to your ears to check for any lesion covered by hair. You can check the back of your head using a hand held mirror, but this is cumbersome. Ask someone to help. (Checks made by hairdressers or other members of your family are helpful) Make notes.

Be SunAWARE. Be Safe.

Sources: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2008, April 22) Most Lethal Melanomas Are On Scalp And Neck. Science Daily


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