With longer daylight hours and summer knocking at the door, it’s only natural that kids will be spending more time outside in the sun. With skin cancers on the rise in young people, many parents are concerned about their children getting too much sun exposure.
Parents may be worried, but teens and younger kids often think skin cancer is something that only happens to older adults. But the facts tell a different story.
Melanoma (the most dangerous type of skin cancer) is one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). It’s the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 25 to 30, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation and since the 1970s, cases of melanoma have increased by 250% in children and young adults, according to a 2011 study.
Skin cancers take time to develop. Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun.
Knowing the facts about skin cancer doesn’t mean that your child can’t play or spend time outside, but by following a few simple sun-protection rules kids can still have fun enjoying the great outdoors.
Sunscreen: The number one protection from sunburn and skin damage is sunscreen. An SPF, or sun protection factor, indicates a sunscreen's effectiveness at preventing sunburn. "If your child's skin reddens in 10 minutes without sunscreen, SPF 15 multiplies that time (10 minutes) by 15, meaning she'd be protected from sunburn for approximately 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours," says Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Melanoma and Cutaneous Oncology Program at the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.
This all depends on good application, so make sure your child’s skin is evenly covered. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using sunscreens with at least an SPF of 15, which blocks 93 percent of UVB rays. Higher SPFs provide even greater protection, but only to a certain point: SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UVB and SPF 50+ (the maximum SPF you'll find on sunscreen labels due to new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules) blocks 98 percent.
Shade: UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday. If your child is outside during this time, if possible- seek shade under a tree, an umbrella or pop-up tent,
Cover up: When possible wear lightweight long sleeves and pants. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
Sunglasses: They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
Wear a hat: The trend in wearing baseball or gimme caps is actually working out in favor of protecting kids’ faces and heads from UV rays. While the caps are helpful, they don’t protect necks and ears, so make sure these areas have plenty of sunscreen as well as the face.
Sunny days are not the only time kids need skin protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.
And, remember to plan ahead, and keep sun protection handy—in your car, bag, or child’s backpack.
Story sources: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/children.htm
Jeannette Moninger, http://www.parents.com/kids/safety/outdoor/sun-care-basics/