Protect your family from skin cancer

June 14, 2018

Although there are several different types of skin cancer, most don’t become life-threatening because they aren’t likely to spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, melanoma is different. If not caught early, melanoma can spread from the skin to other organs, often with deadly results. And this serious skin cancer is no longer considered just an older person’s disease. Rates are on the rise, especially among people in their teens and 20s. And research shows that the increase may be partly related to ultraviolet (UV) sun exposure during childhood. In the United States alone, the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 4 decades.

You have the power to greatly lower your family’s risk of getting melanoma. Protect yourself and your kids from the sun. Pay attention to moles on the skin. And make sure your kids know from an early age that it’s important to take sun safety seriously. Here are 3 ways to be sun safe:

Use sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that everyone, regardless of skin tone, wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Whatever sunscreen you choose, make sure it’s broad-spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and, if you and your kids are in or near water, is labeled water-resistant. Apply a generous amount and re-apply often.

Stay out of the strongest rays of the day

Try to stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest (usually from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the northern hemisphere). If kids are in the sun during this time, apply and reapply sunscreen, even if they’re just playing in the backyard. Most sun damage happens from exposure during day-to-day activities, not from being at the beach. Remember that even on cloudy, cool or overcast days, UV rays reach the earth. This “invisible sun” can cause unexpected sunburn and skin damage.

Cover up

One of the best ways to protect skin is to cover up. To make sure clothes offer enough protection, put your hand inside garments to make sure you can’t see it through them. Babies have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, so their skin burns easily. The best protection for babies under 6 months of age is shade, so they should be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your baby must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face. If your baby is younger than 6 months old and still has small areas of skin (like the face) exposed, you can use a tiny amount of SPF 15 sunscreen on those areas.

Older kids and adults need to escape the sun too. For outdoor events, bring along a wide umbrella. If it’s not too hot outside and won’t make you or your kids even more uncomfortable, wear light long-sleeved shirts and/or long pants.

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