Sun protection and children

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 27th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Too much of the sun’s golden rays can lead not only to a painful sunburn, but also to skin cancer… and long before your golden years.

The risk of malignant melanoma… the most dangerous skin cancer… is associated with the intensity of sunlight a person receives over a lifetime. And although pediatric melanoma is uncommon, some cancer doctors are seeing an alarming increase in new cases. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, about three-hundred-fifty new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in children every year.

People get most of their lifetime sun exposure during childhood, in part because kids spend so much time outdoors. An estimated two-thirds of U-S children are not properly protected from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.

Boston University researchers recently investigated whether an intensive educational program aimed at mothers of newborns would increase sun protection practices and lower rates of sunburn or tanning for their children.

The mothers reported a big increase in sun damage in the second summer of their children’s lives compared with the first. They also tended to rely more on sunscreen than hats, shirts and other skin-shading methods. The study results suggest sun protection declines at a much earlier age than previously reported, which was thought to be between nine to twelve, when children become more independent.

Experts advise renewed vigilance when it comes to sun protection for kids. After all, adopting sun protection habits early in life, so they become routine, offers one ray of hope in the fight against skin cancer.