May 11, 2015 | by Denise Heady
Attention, parents! Only a few serious sunburns can increase a child's ultimate risk of skin cancer. Further, some studies suggest that ultraviolet (UV) exposure before the age of 10 is the most important factor for melanoma risk.
Here skin cancer expert Jae Jung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at City of Hope, shares her own tips on how to protect children from the sun – without putting a damper on a normal, fun childhood.
1. Keep infants out of the sun, and dress them in sun-protective clothing.
“For small babies 6 months and younger, I favor protective clothing and sun avoidance,” Jung said. For small children, Jung recommends physical sun blocks containing zinc and titanium, and sensitive skin formulas, which have minimal chemical ingredients.
2. Set a timer to help remind you to reapply sunscreen when spending time outdoors.
“Everyone is usually good about putting sunscreen on before going out, but it needs to be applied every 60 to 90 minutes, which is hard when kids are running around having fun,” Jung said. “I tell patients to set a timer to help them to remember to reapply.”
3. Use multiple layers of protection to safeguard children from the sun.
Jung takes no chances with her own kids. Besides applying sunscreen to them, she outfits them with hats and makes sure they have access to umbrellas and shade. “I can tell if they got too much sun by the diaper area tan line,” Jung sad. “UV rays go through most normal clothing so if their bottoms are lighter than the rest of them, I know that they are getting too much sun.”
4. Don’t skimp on the sunscreen.
The National Cancer Society recommends using about 1 ounce of sunscreen for the average adult. “You have to be very vigilant on applying sunscreen throughout the day,” Jung said. “Redness is the first sign of sun damage, but it often doesn’t show until the next day and is difficult to see in darker skin.”
5. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are considered the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors in the United States, even on cloudy days. “If my kids are going to be in the sun for more than a few minutes, I have them wear UPF sun-protective clothing and rash guards.”
Learn more about skin cancer treatment and research at City of Hope.
Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.