School’s out, and your kids are probably off at summer camp, hitting the beach, or playing on the local summer soccer league. Whatever it is, they’re definitely getting plenty of sunshine. It’s important to take note of their extended hours in the sun and adjust accordingly. It's the perfect time to check your sun safety practices. Read on to learn more about the risks, signs, and tips for prevention.It's important to protect kid's skin from too much sun exposure. Here's how to help kids enjoy fun in the sun safely!Click To Tweet
Types of Skin Cancer
According to SkinCancer.org, a person’s risk for developing melanoma increases if they have had more than five sunburns—specifically, a single blistering sunburn at a young age or during adolescence doubles the likelihood of developing melanoma later on in life.
Melanoma is not the only type of skin cancer out there, and not all are as deadly.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
BCC is the most prevalent skin cancer type. It is most likely to develop in people who have fair skin and in people of color.
It’s identifiable by its flesh-colored appearance, and it will often appear as a pearl-like bump. While BCCs are more common on the arms, scalp, and neck areas, they can also form on the legs and torso.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
SCC will present as a red and firm bump, a lesion, or a flaky patch of skin.
This form of cancer develops on the places of the body with the most sun exposure, like the top of the ears, the face, neck, arms, and torso.
Finally, melanoma—the most severe form—can develop in a mole that already exists. Melanomas can also appear as dark spots on your skin that look different from the rest.
While skin cancer is generally uncommon in children, melanoma is most frequently diagnosed in children. Spitzoid melanoma, conventional melanoma, and congenital melanocytic nevus are the specific types of skin cancer that children are diagnosed with.
Conventional melanoma is similar to adult melanomas, and they tend to be diagnosed after puberty.
Spitzoid melanomas look different from melanomas found in adults, as they’re often nodular, round, and uniform in color.
Finally, congenital melanocytic nevus is a large mole or birthmark that’s present at birth. While it’s not initially cancerous, about 5-10 percent of these cases turn cancerous.
Common Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
If your family genetics include any of the below, it is crucial to be cautious about overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
- Fair skin
- Blonde or red hair
- Several moles
- History of melanoma
Fair-skinned individuals are not the only ones at risk.
Dr. Vincent Marchello, Fidelis Care Chief Medical Officer emphasizes that “although darker skin does offer some protection from ultraviolet (UV) light, it does not mean that these individuals are not at risk for skin cancer. During UV Safety Month, Fidelis Care stresses the importance of routine skin care and recommends that everyone, regardless of skin color, applies sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 before going outdoors.”
Additionally, warn your teens of the dangers of indoor tanning beds. The most common cases of pediatric melanoma occur in girls between the ages of 15 and 19.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center link this to excessive sun exposure and the use of tanning beds.
Sun Safety for Kids
It’s best to instill good sun-safety habits in your children early on. Help your child apply sunscreen on all places where their skin will have sun exposure—don’t forget the top of those ears!
The CDC recommends an SPF of 15 or higher, and remember to reapply at least every two hours, especially after activities that involve excessive sweating or swimming. Parents of babies younger than six months should be wary of exposing them to the sun’s rays at all.
If you are worried that it will be hard to remove sunscreen, don't be. Simply use an oil-based cleanser and silicone scrubber to gently remove any leftover sunscreen debris while exfoliating your skin at the same time.
If possible, avoid being in the sun when it’s the strongest—between 10 am and 4 pm, and encourage your kids to wear hats and protective clothing.
You’re a model to your child, so make sure you’re practicing the same habits you want to instill in them.
Exam Your Child's Skin Often
Early detection of skin cancer dramatically improves the likelihood of survival.
Up to 40% of the time, the treatment of childhood melanoma is delayed due to inaccurate diagnosis of pigmented spots or lesions. As mentioned above, it’s important to watch out for any new spots that look peculiar in shape, size, and color.
You can easily do these checks on your kids, as you probably know their skin best. Still, if there’s a family history, it’s crucial to have a pediatric dermatologist do a complete check of all existing and new spots.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the “ABCDES” to help you know what to look for when doing skin checks on yourself or your kids:
The spot should look the same from one half to the other and like other non-cancerous spots on your body
Irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined borders are a cause for concern.
Multiple shades of tan, brown, or black, and white, red, or blue areas are not common in a regular mole.
Melanomas tend to be greater than 6 mm—the size of a pencil eraser—although they are sometimes diagnosed smaller.
As mentioned above, keep an eye on any size, shape, or color changes over time.
Having a healthy, UV-safe summer doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice time out in the sunshine. Apply the SPF-15 sunblock and enjoy that sun, but don’t forget to reapply and set up those routine checks!