Skin cancer or rickets? Between a rock and a hard place again

I think it’s important to give children choices – it helps them prepare for the pressures of adulthood, teaches them responsibility and most importantly, it takes the pressure off me.

Only yesterday I empowered my offspring with yet another choice: would you like to contract skin cancer, or would you prefer rickets, bad teeth and breast/colon or prostrate cancer? As usual, they selfishly picked the option that would cost me the most money.

After spending years telling us that we should cover up in the sun to block out the harmful UVA and UVB radiation, scientists are now telling us that too little direct exposure to sunlight is harmful to our health.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia, most of us are lacking in vitamin D, which is manfactured in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and which may have a protective effect against certain cancers by preventing the overproduction of cells.

This is bad news on several levels.

For years I have been dipping my children in industrial-sized vats of SPF 250, which means I could leave them in the oven for 45 minutes at Gas Mark 6 and they still wouldn’t get a tan. It has cost me a small fortune.

Holidays have been routinely ruined by my compulsion to coat the kids in sunblock. Despite always arriving at the beach at 8am, by the time I had correctly applied sunblock to each child it was inevitably 11pm and pitch black. The only way we made it back to our car was by virtue of the fact that I’d used that luminous “fun” suncream which meant the kids could light our path to safety.

On this note, the day-glo sunblock had another benefit; it made the children look like extras from a particularly poor episode of Doctor Who, circa 1973 – five minutes after sun cream application they were coated in grit like ambulatory rolls of glowing sandpaper.

This meant that no other child on the beach, unless they were wearing welding goggles and were fans of video nasties, would talk to them, which in turn meant I didn’t have to share pointless conversation with said children’s mind-numbingly tedious parents.

Ah, how fondly I remember the good old days when the ozone layer was a silent killer and the sun was our enemy.

Proof that the sun (see upper left hand corner) turns you into a Satanist with sunburn

Proof that the sun (see upper left hand corner) turns you into a Satanist. Oh, hang on, that's the novelty sunblock. As you were.

Now the Australians are claiming that we should send our tender-skinned babes into the glaring sun with no SPF protection whatsoever for at least 15 minutes a day so they can soak up the vitamin D.

Yes, your children may stagger back indoors cooked to a crisp and complaining of dehydration, but at least they’ll have lovely strong teeth, good bone structure and will look slightly less like you put them to bed under a dank stone every night.

Even if you do bake your kids in the sun for quarter of an hour every day, it still won’t prevent them becoming deficient in the winter, by virtue of the fact that our bodies can only store vitamin D for a maximum of 60 days. The only way we Brits could keep our vitamin D levels topped up naturally would be to have year-long summers and the only way to have year-long summers is for us all to start releasing some CFCs into the atmosphere – fast.

This creates a real dilemma for my daughter, who recently announced that she had become an “eco councillor” at school, which appears to involve knowing where the school compost bucket is and being sanctimonious about clingfilm.

So I decided to hand the balance of power over to her by offering her yet another choice: do you want to die a horribly slow, painful death, or do you want to help mummy spray paint the house and smash up a few fridges?

Eco councillor my arse.

* I used suncream on the children for the first time this year yesterday. Then I scraped it all off for 15 minutes before reapplying it – by the time we got outside, the sun had disappeared entirely. Are you satisfied, Cancer Council of Australia? Well?

*** All new singing and dancing newspaper column by the Woman in Black here . Get to find out what I’m doing IN REAL LIFE. God, I spoil you lot. ***


18 Responses to “Skin cancer or rickets? Between a rock and a hard place again”

  1. 1 Jane
    March 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    I just bought some factor fifty suncream for Jnr today. I don’t trust these Aussies with their very dry sense of humour they are probably just making it all up for a laugh.

  2. 2 Ana
    March 30, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    Have you also heard that we’re also not supposed to give cough medication of any kind to our cherubs under six years of age? I spent the better part of last night up with a three year old with a gagging cough. By hour two, I was seriously considering giving both of us a gin-soaked rag to suck on. I wish I had had my kids in 1950 — I’d be blowing smoke in their face, giving them opiates all whilst drinking a martini.

  3. 3 okathleen
    March 30, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    It seems you are not quite at the dilemma of ‘the right kind of sunscreen’.

    Teenage daoughter insists her skin will absolutely not be subjected to any product from Superdrug or the like, and will only use products in bright orange bottles at £35 a pop.

    And then there is the lipsalve and hair protector spray…


  4. March 31, 2009 at 1:22 am

    Does smearing them with baby oil shorten the baking time to five minutes?

  5. March 31, 2009 at 2:12 am

    An Eco Councillor sounds kinda creepy. I hope your child doesn’t denounce you.

  6. March 31, 2009 at 6:01 am

    Ask any Appalachian coal miner.

    You have been spotlighted, Woman. http://gryphonscry.wordpress.com/2009/03/31/woman-in-black/

  7. March 31, 2009 at 8:07 am

    I baste the oldies at the gimcrack regularly. Rain, hail or shine, they get shoved out on the balcony for 15 minutes of vitamin D every day. we really care about our patients 😉

  8. March 31, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    You are a celeb!!!! Don’t forget the little people when you write your book.

  9. March 31, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    I am disgusted by the way the black man is completely ignored in this conversation. Do you ever see any ads for sunscreen for my people? Hell no. I am really getting sick of you pasty white people and the way you don’t share the cool products you have.

  10. March 31, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I learn so much when I visit your “house”. I’m glad I have my own personal suntan, but I really wish I could find some true flesh-colored Band-Aids.

  11. March 31, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    How about exposing their arses to 15 minutes of unprotected sunlight every day? Make the sun shine into their bottoms instead of out of them. There is no such thing as arse cancer.

  12. April 1, 2009 at 7:51 am

    George they do make them…they are called “clear bandages” ha ha

  13. April 1, 2009 at 11:20 am

    “There is no such thing as arse cancer” Tell that to Farah Fawcett GB 🙂

  14. April 1, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    The good news is Vitamin D is cheap like borscht. Lock your kids in the basement with Hammy and feed them Vitamin D and apples. That should suffice. It worked for mine. Until they broke out and came looking for me.

    If I had to choose between skin cancer or rickets, I’d ask for a third option. Perhaps, the plague?

  15. April 1, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Oh how I miss the days of lathing in cooking oil in preparation to layout on the black tar roof. Sad but true. Great blog and I added you to my blog roll.

  16. April 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Nice to see you all over at WIB Towers! Threw the children outside to get some vitamin D today, they came back inside with bird flu. It’s one bloody thing after another.

  17. 17 MM
    June 29, 2009 at 4:06 am

    It’s true!

    My Scottish pale skin was slathered in sunscreen every time I went near the door for fear of Australian Sun Cancer. After 5 years of this I was told I had Vitamin D deficiency. Stupid vitamins. Now I have to have carefully monitored hat-off time and pills. It’s like the whole red wine thing all over again.

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