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Too Much Sun During Childhood May be Linked to Skin Cancer in Adults

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.

It’s never too early to save your skin, or your children’s, 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 at risk.

You can take steps early and often to minimize the sun’s harmful effects. To help protect children from the sun’s damaging effects:

  • Remember the sun is strongest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Schedule children’s outdoor activities accordingly.

  • Dress children for maximum protection. Hats with brims and tightly woven, long-sleeved shirts and pants offer the best defense.

  • 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 infant’s 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 eyes.

Sunscreens provide some protection by blocking the sun’s 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 sun’s 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 children’s skin even when they are under a beach umbrella. The sun’s 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.

 

The information contained herein has been obtained from sources that the Company believes to be reliable, however, the Company has not independently verified or confirmed the information and the recipient acknowledges that no representations or warranties are being made in connection with the use of the information.