Recently, my husband was diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the world’s deadliest form of skin cancer and the fifth most common cancer among both men and women. I don’t mean to scare you, but it’s dangerous because it can spread or metastasize throughout the body. It can essentially develop anywhere, but men are most likely to see it on the back of the head/neck area where women see it more commonly on the legs. This is why I’ve made it a mission to teach our children about skin protection.
Did you know that children can also develop Melanoma? It’s called Pediatric Melanoma. A small percentage of children are diagnosed each year in children younger than 20 years old in the United States. A big increase has been in girls ages 15-19, which may be attributed to sunbathing and using tanning beds. It’s the second most common cancer for this age group. One blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life. This is a little alarming for my daughters since we now know there is a history of Melanoma directly related to their father.
So, how can I help teach and reduce the risk on my girls getting Melanoma in the future?
- By protecting their skin from the sun and other sources of ultraviolet rays.
- By modeling sun protection behaviors while they are still young and making it part of their daily routine.
- Enlisting their help in applying sunscreen, encouraging sunglasses, and engage in sun protective activities.
Here are 6 ways to protect your children’s skin from the sun:
- Avoid the mid-day sun. UV rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm. Try to limit exposure during these hours but if you can’t, try looking for shade.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. A broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from UVA & UVB rays.
- Apply sunscreen generously & reapply often. Apply about 15 minutes before going into the sun and note that sunscreens tend to lose their efficacy after two hours. Reapply after swimming and sweating. Don’t forget to cover those tricky spots like scalp, ears, back of neck, tops of feet, and between toes!
- Wear sunscreen every day, regardless of weather report. There are tons of moisturizers and makeup out there that have SPF built in. UV rays can be strong even on overcast days so look for something with at least 30 SPF.
- Wear lip balm with SPF. What girl doesn’t love lip balm? Just make sure it has SPF in it when they plan to go out in the sun.
- Wear UV-blocking protective clothing, sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats. Look for clothing that has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating of 30 and above. For sunglasses, look for glasses that say “UV absorption up to 400nm” which blocks out 99% to 100% of UVA & UVB rays. Also, look for a wide brimmed hat that is 2-3 inches all the way around.