Protect your kids from skin cancer
- Too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage DNA in your skin cells and cause skin cancer.
- In the UK for example, almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunbeds.
- Getting sunburn just once every 2 years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
How can UV cause skin cancer?
Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the genetic material (the DNA) in your skin cells. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer. Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people can have a higher risk.
What is sunburn?
Sunburn is skin damage and your body’s response to try to repair it – it’s a short-term warning for potential long-term DNA damage, and is a clear sign that the DNA in your skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Getting sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer.
Babies and children are extra sensitive to the sun, and protecting their skin is paramount. Luckily, with good sun habits, including proper clothing and sunscreen, children can enjoy all sorts of outdoor activities without risking their health. The following articles will help you teach your kids to combine sun safety with an active lifestyle.
Children under age 10 are at a high risk for skin and eye damage from UVR. The skin on their eyelids and around their eyes is more delicate and vulnerable than adult skin. "And until about age 10, the lens of a child's eye is clear, allowing greater solar penetration and thus greater UVR-induced ocular changes," explains Adelaide A. Hebert, MD, professor and vice chair of dermatology, University of Houston. "After that, the lens starts to become more opaque, providing better protection."
Fortunately, good sunglasses protect both the skin around the eye and the eye itself. While children under 6 months old should never be exposed to the sun, once they reach 6 months, they should wear sunglasses outside.
Keep these rules in mind when buying sunglasses for children:
- Find glasses that block 99-100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Buy ones that indicate the percentage of UVR protection they provide. The more skin covered, the better, so look for large, wraparound styles.
- Use playground-proof lenses. Kids run, trip, fall, and bounce off objects at alarming speed. Their sunglasses should match this active lifestyle. Find impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses that don't pop out of the frames.
- Eyeball the glasses. Check to see that lenses are not scratched or warped and have no other flaws that distort vision. Very young children may not know to complain if the glasses are flawed, so it's up to you to check before buying.
- Double Up. Sunglasses block only rays that come directly through the lenses. The skin around the eyes remains vulnerable to rays entering though the sides or from the top, or reflected upwards off snow, sand, water, etc. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is a good backup, blocking out many rays from above and even from the sides, while also shielding the face and neck. Seeking shade during the sun's most intense hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., provides another level of protection.
"We need to teach children early the importance of wearing sunglasses – just as we teach them to brush their teeth and wear a seatbelt, so that they develop good habits that last for life," concludes Dr. Hebert.