Sun Protection and Kids
Although we commonly associate skin cancer with mature skin, the process of cellular damage that leads to dangerous lesions often begins during our early years. According to the CDC, blistering sunburns as a child increase the likelihood of cancer considerably―nearly doubling a person’s chances of developing melanoma over the course of their lifetime. Furthermore, the American Academy of Dermatology states that experiencing five or more blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 increases risk for melanoma by 80%, as well as non-melanoma cancers by 68%.
Protecting your child’s skin sets them up for a healthy life long after they reach adulthood. Through the progression of newborn infancy to adolescence and beyond, there are a few sun safety practices and tips to remember as we enjoy summer.
First, naturally, is sunscreen! Most of us are aware that in order to protect an active kid, water resistance is key. Most dermatologists also suggest a sun protection factor (or SPF) of over 30. At Deschutes Dermatology, we recommend mineral sunblocks with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as they offer more broad spectrum protection and are less likely to cause irritation. One of our favorites is Elta MD’s UV Pure Broad Spectrum sunblock, which is chemical free, provides both UVA and UVB protection, and is water resistant up to 80-minutes. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6-months-old as they should be kept out of direct sun altogether.
Also important is limiting any time spent outside during peak hours of the sun’s arc, usually 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. During this period, it’s particularly important to make sure that sunscreen is applied properly, hats are worn, and shade is nearby. As burns can start to develop in as little as 15 minutes, your child could be well on the way to a sunburn before you even finish a walk to the park.
Protective clothing, such as a good hat and sun shirt, is also be a great way to keep your child safe. Making sure these items are available in their backpack or book bag can keep their skin protected even during unexpected outdoor activities. One of our favorite UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing brands is Coolibar, with fun patterns and colors. If a child you love does develop a serious burn, it’s important to keep a close eye on any preexisting moles or suspicious spots. The American Academy of Dermatology’s ABCDE’s of melanoma can give you helpful pointers on what to look for. Following up with a skin cancer screening can ensure that any suspicious lesions are caught early, drastically decreasing chances of melanoma related complications.