Landon Donovan, forward for the MLS’s Los Angeles Galaxy and Team USA’s all-time leading scorer, was heading to a training session a few years ago when his now ex-wife, actress Bianca Kajlich, asked if he wore sunscreen on the pitch. “I looked at her like she was crazy,” Donovan recalls. “It seems stupid now to not have realized how important that was.” In fact, Donovan, 31, admits he didn’t bother to take the issue seriously at all – that is until his father, Canadian-born hockey player Tim Donovan, discovered he had melanoma.
“When my dad was diagnosed, it was definitely a wake-up call,” says Donovan, who is relieved to note that his dad is now in remission. “[In the past], you could get away with saying, ‘Oh, we didn’t really know any better.’ But nowadays, we all do, so it’s inexcusable to not protect ourselves when we go outside.” Yet studies show that men overwhelmingly still continue to ignore and take precautions against the risks of sun exposure. For instance, in a 2012 Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) survey of 1,000 men, 49 percent admitted they hadn’t used sunblock at all in the previous year, and 70 percent weren’t even aware of cancer’s warning signs. Those shocking results unfortunately help explain why an estimated 45,000 of American men will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year, according to the SCF – about 30 percent more than women.
Following his father’s battle, Donovan has made fighting skin cancer a personal cause. He has partnered with the SCF and Energizer Personal Care (which makes Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic products) to increase awareness with their Sun Blunders campaign. Among the audience he hopes to reach are his own Los Angeles Galaxy teammates, some of whom neglect to wear sunscreen enough all the time, such as when it’s an overcast day – which is when 50 to 80 percent of UV rays still break through the clouds. Donovan says he understands the mentality, as he used to think the same way. “There is an air of invincibility that men, much more than women, seem to have,” Donovan says. “It’s also a macho thing, to be honest. But it doesn’t mean you’re less masculine if you’re putting on sunscreen.”
Though most of Donovan’s games for the Galaxy start at night, he almost always trains during the day, and so has a set routine for keeping himself protected: A half hour before his first exposure to the sun, he applies a sweat-resistant lotion. And then if his workout exceeds the usual two-hour time frame, he makes sure to add another layer – no matter what. “Now it’s just a habit, a ritual,” Donovan says, “so it makes it really easy.”
More information: May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Visit SunBlunders.com to learn a few attitude-altering facts about sun exposure – like how you can get dangerously sunburned in just 10 to 15 minutes. While there take the sun-smarts quiz and you’ll be entered to win a three-night, three-guys’ getaway to Key West, Florida.