New York, NY (July 21, 2008) - Children should be taught from an early age to be aware of the problems associated with sun exposure and the need to use sun protection. Parents can teach their children early sun protection techniques that will help prevent skin cancer throughout their lives.
Skin cancer rates in the United States are increasing at epidemic levels. One in 55 people will now be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, during their lifetime. This is particularly important for children because one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.
"We believe the rise in melanoma is due to sun exposure and sunburns in childhood, inc'reased sun exposure over time and the use of tanning beds," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
The vast majority of skin cancers are preventable with good sun protection habits. The Foundation recommends the following methods of protection for different age groups.
An infant's skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun's damaging effects. In fact, babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun. Follow these tips for babies older than 6 months:
- Take walks early in the morning or late afternoon and use a stroller with a sun-protective cover.
- Make sure babies are covered up with clothes. (Long-sleeved un-bleached cotton clothing is cool and comfortable, while also highly protective). Clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) listing on the label offers extra security. UPF is similar to the SPF for sunscreen, and The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends UPFs of 30 or higher for superior protection.
- Choose a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet that protects the baby's face, neck, and ears. A baby who wears a hat during the first few months will get used to having it on.
- Sunglasses are not very practical for a young baby. To protect your baby's eyes, seek the shade between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Apply a broad-spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen to areas left uncovered such as baby's hands.
- Shield the baby from direct sunlight coming in through the windows of your car.
Toddlers and School-Age Children
Protecting toddlers from the sun requires a little more thought and effort. It is important to educate not only your child, but caregivers as well.
- Make sure your child seeks the shade between 10AM and 4PM. Check the outdoor area where your child plays to make sure there is adequate shade.
- A broad-spectrum, SPF 15+ sunscreen should be applied every morning, 30 minutes before leaving the house. Keep sunscreen in the bathroom where children brush their teeth, and eventually it will become routine.
- Two tablespoons (one ounce) of sunscreen must be applied every two hours and more often if your child is swimming or sweating.
- Children should wear sun-protective clothing whenever possible - including shirts, hats and sunglasses - for protection against ultraviolet radiation. Make sure your child wears a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants during prolonged periods in the sun.
- Children should enjoy the outdoors safely. Teach them how to protect themselves and tell others about the importance of sun protection.
About The Skin Cancer Foundation:
The first organization in the U.S committed to educating the public and medical professionals about sun safety, The Skin Cancer Foundation is still the only global organization solely devoted to the prevention, detection and treatment of skin cancer. The mission of the Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research.