Here's an alarming fact every parent should know: Sun exposure
in childhood can lead to early cancer as an adult.
And the problem is growing. Each year there are more new cases
of skin cancer than cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon
The two most common forms (basal cell and squamous cell) are
highly treatable and tend to occur later in life, but the deadliest
form, melanoma, strikes young adults and is the most common form of
cancer for people age 25-29.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is a strong risk factor for
all skin cancers. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles
the chances for melanoma.
The FDA's new guidelines for sunscreen should make it easier for
parents to protect their children.
The sun emits both UVA and UVB light. SPF only indicates the
ability of a sunscreen to prevent sunburn from UVB light, but UVA
light can cause premature aging and skin cancer. Under the new
guidelines, a product labeled "broad spectrum" must provide as much
UVA protection as it does UVB.
The words "waterproof" and "sweatproof" also no longer can be
used because every product eventually will wash off. Some can be
labeled "water resistant," but must state whether the sunscreen
remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or
Remember, skin cancer risk is related to the total lifetime sun
exposure starting at birth. Keep babies under 6 months covered up.
Loose fitting, lightweight long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a
hat with a brim are essential for every baby in hot weather.
In general, sunscreen is not used for babies, but check with
your pediatrician if sun exposure is unavoidable. In that case,
small amounts of sunscreen may be advised.
For older children, sunscreen should be non-negotiable, just
like a seatbelt or a bicycle helmet. Most people don't use enough,
so put on more than you think is needed.
One of the best ways to avoid excessive sun exposure when
swimming is to wear a swim shirt.
Dr. Amy Brodsky, a Chicago dermatologist, is launching an
initiative this summer called "Cool in the Pool" with the help of
Cubs announcer Len Kasper in a partnership with Banner Camp in Lake
Forest. They want to make swim shirts trendy so that kids want to
Brodsky encourages parents to start using swim shirts at an
early age since they provide 100 percent protection to the covered
areas. Sunscreen still should be applied.
Dr. Lisa Thornton, a mother of three, is director of pediatric rehabilitation at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and LaRabida Children’s Hospital. She also is assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
See more of Dr. Thornton's stories here.
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