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Children - Sun Safety
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Several years ago, as a young college student, my husband received the shocking news that he had developed malignant melanoma. Many Americans treat the subject of skin cancer casually, probably due to their familiarity with skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carincoma which are usually easily treated. They are often unaware of the danger of malignant melanoma which, if it metastasizes (spreads to the rest of the body), is nearly untreatable. Thankfully, my husband appears to have been diagnosed before the cancer spread and after removing the cancerous lesion, he has been cancer free for five years.

But melanoma is the most common cancer in young adults today and our family has been motivated to be very careful about our sun practices, especially for our young daughter. It is critical for parents to realize that precautions right now will directly impact your children’s risk of developing melanoma as they reach adulthood. The American Academy of Dermatology notes that sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma. Their “Be Sun Smart” campaign provides a helpful list of guidelines for parents as summertime comes around the corner.*


  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF30 or more. While sunscreen has not yet been proven to protect against melanoma, many experts believe that newer, broad-spectrum sunscreens provide better protection. Use sunscreen as a pre-caution but do not depend on it. Some research indicates that sunscreen may increase the risk of melanoma by giving its users a false sense of protection, increasing their intentional sun exposure.** This is especially important for parents to keep in mind. Sunscreen is not a magical shield. Use sunscreen in combination with other safe sun practices.

  • Wear protective clothing. I recently gave up the cute one-piece swim suit I had chosen for my daughter and found her a two-piece protective sun outfit for swimming, with a t-shirt and shorts. I realized my daughter’s safety was most important and was surprised to find a pretty purple set at a local store. Many companies are starting to provide more protective swim suits for children.

  • Seek shade. As the AAD points out, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10AM and 4PM. Try to encourage your children to play outside before and after these hours. If they are outside, try to find playgrounds with shaded play equipment and trees.

  • Get Vitamin D safely through eating a healthy diet. This may include supplements. Many children’s supplements now provide vitamin D, so check your labels.

  • Avoid tanning beds. Hopefully most parents will find this obvious, but it is critical for parents of teens to educate them about the dangers of tanning. Provide safer options like a sunless self-tanning product.
These practices may have a significant impact on your children’s risk of developing skin cancer in the future. Enjoy the summer and be safe in the sun!

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By Danae Schilt. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

* http://www.aad.org/skin-care-and-safety/skin-cancer-prevention/be-sun-smart/be-sun-smart

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