It's time to start thinking about protecting your child's skin from the harsh rays of the sun. Exposure to the sun during childhood and the teen years is a major contributor to developing skin cancer. Here's how to protect your child's skin, as well as your own, from the long-term effects of the sun.
Who is at risk?
Exposure to sunlight is the most widely known risk factor for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Blistering sunburns as well as intense intermittent sun exposure in childhood are considered major risk factors for skin cancer in later years. Not only is direct outdoor sunlight a danger, but tanning lamps are also associated with melanoma. It is important to note that individuals of all skin types can develop melanoma, but those with fair skin are at the highest risk, as are those with multiple dark moles and large moles that cover five percent of their body's surface area. Family history of melanoma is also a significant risk factor suggesting a genetic predisposition.
The ABCs of moles
How can you tell if a mole is benign or malignant? Follow this simple ABCD rule:
Assymetry: Melanomas are usually assymetrical, or irregular, in shape.
Borders: Melanomas usually have uneven, irregular or blurred edges or borders.
Color: Changes in the color of a mole, especially shades of red, blue or white within a mole, are suggestive of melanoma.
Diameter: Any mole that's greater than 6 mm in diameter should be evaluated. Moles this size or smaller are most likely to be benign.
Yearly mole checks by your family physician starting after puberty is advisable especially if any risk factors are present.
Encourage your child to decrease exposure to ultraviolet rays and to always use sun protection with SPF of at least 30. Apply liberally, and repeat application if you're outside in the sun for several hours, have excessive perspiration or have been swimming. Remember to wear protective gear like hats with visors, sunglasses and loose fitting long sleeves and pants if possible. In addition, avoid sunlight by planning outdoor activities before 10am or after 4pm if possible.