Too Much Sun During Childhood May be Linked to Skin Cancer in
What is the most common form of
cancer in the United States? The answer may surprise you. The most common form
is Skin Cancer. Medical experts are diagnosing it more often than ever. It is now
believed that too much sun exposure during childhood may be responsible.
Its never too early to save
your skin, or your childrens, from the sun. The sun produces invisible ultraviolet A
(UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that can cause short- and long-term skin damage.
The immediate effects of harmful sun
rays sunburn, photosensitive reactions (rashes), and cell and tissue damage
are bad enough. But medical experts believe that too much exposure to the sun in childhood
or adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer and premature skin aging later in life.
Health experts also believe that UVA may weaken the immune system.
Two types of skin cancer, basal cell
and squamous cell, usually are treatable if detected early. Basal cell often develops on
the face, ears, lips, and around the mouth of fair-skinned people. Squamous cell usually
appears as a scaly patch or raised, wart-like growth. Melanoma, another type of skin
cancer, is the most dangerous. It can occur anywhere on the body. Early detection is
crucial for successful treatment.
Several factors have been linked to
increased risk of developing skin cancer. Several blistering sunburns as a child or
teenager are now believed to increase the likelihood of contracting skin cancer later in
life. In addition if you have a family history of skin cancer; light-colored skin,
hair, and eyes; and moles that are irregular in shape or color you are more likely to be
You can take steps early and often to
minimize the suns harmful effects. To help protect children from the suns
Remember the sun is strongest from
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Schedule childrens outdoor activities accordingly.
Dress children for maximum
protection. Hats with brims and tightly woven, long-sleeved shirts and pants offer the
Select sunglasses that help screen
out both UVA and UVB rays. UV rays may contribute to the development of cataracts.
Sunglasses that are close-fitting and have big lenses offer more protection.
Keep babies younger than six months
out of the sun. Sunscreens may irritate baby skin, and an infants developing eyes
are especially vulnerable to sunlight.
Teenagers who work outside as
lifeguards, gardeners, or construction workers may be at special risk for skin damage.
They need adequate protection before going out in the sun. In addition, try to discourage
them from going to tanning parlors. Like the sun, tanning devices can damage the skin and
Sunscreens provide some protection by
blocking the suns rays on the skin. They are labeled with a sun protection factor
(SPF): the higher the SPF, the greater the protection against harmful sun rays. But no
sunscreen totally blocks the suns rays. Even people wearing high SPF sunscreens get
some exposure. To minimize the damage:
Use water-resistant sunscreens that
help protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays and have SPF numbers of at least 15.
Apply sunscreen liberally (at least
one large handful) about 30 minutes before going outside. No matter what sunscreen product
is used, reapply it after swimming, toweling, or any vigorous activity that causes heavy
perspiration. Toweling off can remove even water-resistant sunscreens.
Talk with camp counselors and
others with child care responsibilities about reapplying sunscreens after children play
hard, perspire, or swim.
Remember to apply sunscreen to
childrens skin even when they are under a beach umbrella. The suns rays can
reflect off surrounding concrete or sand.
This information is general in
nature and not intended to substitute proper medical advise. For information about
skin cancer or skin damage, contact your family doctor or dermatologist.