THIS POST IS WRITTEN IN PARTNERSHIP WITH Michael Sheffield, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and its affiliates. All opinions are of Dr. Pappo of St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital. This post contains affiliate links.
As the summer season approaches, pediatric skin cancer scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are alerting parents of genetic research showing that sun damage contributes to melanoma in children and adolescents as well as adults. The research underscores the need for precautionary measures necessary to avoid extreme sun exposure for children, including the implementation of routine prevention measures.
Dr. Alberto Pappo, director of the Solid Tumor Division at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, says there are important things for parents to keep in mind this summer season, including simple and effective tips to best protect children from the harmful effects of the sun.
“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age. Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults,” said Dr. Pappo. “Children are not immune from extreme sun damage and parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.”
- Try to Avoid Going Outdoors When Sun’s Rays are the Strongest – Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., children should avoid direct UV rays as best possible.
- For Infants Younger than 6 Months of Age, No Sun at All is Best – They can be at the beach or outdoors this summer, but need to be covered up, have on a hat and cover up their neck and extremities. It is best to avoid sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old because they can get significantly more exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen compared to older patients.
- Use of Sunscreen to Prevent Sunburns – Sunscreen should be broad spectrum (effective against both UVA and UVB rays) and at least 15 SPF, although there is little evidence that anything above 50 SPF provides additional protective effects.
- Regular Reapplication of Sunscreen is Necessary – Water-resistant sunscreen does NOT mean it should be applied only once. No more than a couple of hours should pass between applications, especially if one is sweating and in and out of the water.
- Avoid Tanning Beds – The increase in melanoma among teenagers is partly due to their use of tanning beds. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that indoor tanning beds increase melanoma risk 75 percent in people who begin using them before the age of 30.
- Early Diagnosis is Key – If a child has a mole, parents should make their pediatrician aware as soon as possible. Early identification and removal of melanoma are critical. If caught early, chances for survival are significantly higher. Early detection also means less invasive surgical procedures may be necessary, as well as a smaller chance of the tumor spreading.
Remember that: Sun Damage is a Major Risk Factor for Melanoma in Children and Protection Must Start Early
For more information on melanoma, visit St. Jude’s Melanoma Clinic’s fact sheet on the disease by clicking here