- Oncology nurse Olivia Kerins is an NFL cheerleader and skin cancer prevention advocate.
- She sees a special need for skin cancer prevention education in New England.
- Kerins started the nonprofit Nurses on the Surface as an offshoot of her family’s business.
New England Patriots cheerleader and oncology nurse Olivia Kerins has a dual career.
Nursing runs in her family: 20 of her family members are nurses or work in nursing services. Her parents own Nursing On Demand, a nursing concierge company. Her brother, future sister-in-law, and some aunts and cousins are all nurses.
Olivia Kerins: Her Mission to Prevent Skin Cancer
Kerins’ mother is a role model for philanthropy and community involvement, and she remembers accompanying her on cancer awareness walks. Kerins started cheerleading in the first grade but later decided to focus on nursing and volunteer work.
Once she became a nurse, she decided to try her hand again at professional cheerleading.
Kerins regularly tried out to join the New England Patriots cheerleaders. She succeeded on her fourth attempt — when the requirements changed.
For the first time, aspiring cheerleaders had to write a paper about their philanthropic efforts and personal philanthropic mission for the season.
“For me, this couldn’t have been more perfect,” she said. “I’m working so hard on skin cancer prevention and did a lot of research to see how I could tie this in with the Patriots. Mr. Kraft, the team owner, and the Patriots Foundation do so much to get involved with cancer prevention and celebrate survivors.”
She appreciates the complementary aspects of her cheerleading and nursing careers, especially having a predictable cheering schedule. But, she notes that even so, “It takes a lot of organization and planning ahead.”
Like most nurses, it all comes down to improving lives for Kerins.
“Just using my background and knowledge as a nurse to elevate the organization, I want to show ways people can support and be active in the community, whether they’re a nurse or not,” she said.
Alarming Risk Levels
Most skin cancer comes from excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This includes sun exposure and tanning beds.
- Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.
- Each year, 6.1 million adults receive skin cancer treatment at a cost of $8.9 billion.
- In 2020, only 12% of men and 29% of women aged 18 or older reported always using sunscreen when outside for longer than one hour on a sunny day.
- Between 2015 and 2017, almost 60% of teenagers and 30% of adults reported getting at least one sunburn in the past year.
- While people with lighter skin are more likely to get skin cancer, mortality rates are higher among people with darker skin.
Protecting Yourself from UV Rays
Avoiding exposure to UV rays is a major part of skin cancer prevention. Kerins uses sunscreen every time she cheers outdoors.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 15 sun protection factor (SPF) when you are outside and exposed to the sun.
- Even on a cloudy day, you can still be exposed to UV rays. Some clouds can even increase the effects of UV rays.
- Stay in the shade and wear clothing that covers your skin and a hat that shades your face.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses.
- Avoid using indoor tanning beds. If you want a tanned look, use skin bronzers or self-tanners.
Performing Simple Skin Checks
Kerins notes the importance of skin cancer prevention.
“My goal is to try to identify the issue before it’s an issue and teach about how to prevent skin cancer altogether,” she said. “A small mole, in a few years, might develop into something tragic. Being able to identify it early on is important.”
Skin cancer checks are relatively easy to do. One rule of thumb for skin cancer prevention is the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry: One-half of a skin mark, mole, or birthmark does not match the other side.
- Borders: The edges of a mole are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- Color: A mole or other mark on your body is not the same all over. It may show different shades of brown or black, or have pink, white, red, or blue patches.
- Diameter: A mark is larger than 6 millimeters across.
- Evolving: A mark is changing in size, shape, or color.