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About the Author

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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 Although I am no longer active in the running of the company, I believe Coolibar offers the best sun protective clothing on the market today and I will occasionally discuss its products,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

Who Buys Sun Protective Clothes?

Sun protection clothing originated in Australia as a result of that nation's awareness of its epidemic of skin cancer and its determination to fight it. In Australia, the anti-skin cancer campaign was originally focused on prevention (by targeting messages at children) and on early detection (by targeting seniors).

As a result the market for sun protection clothing for children grew dramatically. Now, most children in Australia wear sun protective swimwear or beachwear. Most also wear protective sportswear and have sun protection garments included in school uniforms.

In the United States, despite an epidemic in skin cancers, these trends are almost exactly opposite. The main buyers of sun protective clothing in the US are people forty or over, especially people who have experience health problems from sun exposure, want to prevent a recurrence, and have received medical advice from their doctors.

We suspect that the main reason for the difference is that in the United States, there is no on-going national skin cancer campaign focused on the prevention and detection of skin cancer. Although sun safe curricula is available through the EPA and various sun safe organizations, they are optional. And, they're not backed-up by an on-going national message. Despite the efforts of so many well-meaning organizations and individuals, the overall message is ad hoc.

With recent media attention directed at protecting children from sun exposure, we hope to see a change in these trends. That is, we hope to see more and more parents buying sun protective clothing for their children (and for themselves before a medical event pushes them in that direction). Unfortunately, however, most advice on protecting children seems to focus on sunscreen with sun protection clothing coming in a distinct second. For all age groups, sun protective clothing is the first and best line of defense against skin cancer.

 

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