Start Sun Protection Young
Sunscreen may already be a family staple for a trip to the beach or an afternoon by the pool. But protecting your child from skin cancer requires more than a dab of sun defense. A recent study found that melanoma-the deadliest type of skin cancer-is becoming more common in children. Teaching your child proper sun safety early can prevent skin cancer for a lifetime.
Melanoma on the increase
Your skin has different layers of cells, each with its own job to do. Melanoma attacks cells called melanocytes. These cells have a very specific task: They produce melanin-a pigment that turns your skin brown. Melanin helps shield your skin's deepest layers from harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR).
Too much UVR from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds can cause melanoma. Compared with other types of skin cancer, melanoma is more likely to spread throughout the body. That can make it more difficult to treat.
Melanoma is rare in children. But a recent study in the journal Pediatrics documented a 2 percent annual rise in melanoma cases in children since 1973. Using a national cancer database, researchers found that girls-particularly those ages 15 to 19-were more likely than boys to develop melanoma. In girls, the disease often targets the hips and legs. In boys, it favors the face or trunk.
When your child is outside during the day, his or her skin is constantly bombarded by UVR. To prevent all types of skin cancer, you need to be just as persistent. Follow and teach these sun-safety steps to your child:
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
Checking Your Child's Skin
Practicing proper sun safety isn't complete without a regular self skin-exam. Teach your child to check his or her skin often for any changes. Be on the lookout for moles that change shape, size, color, or texture. Here's how to do a self skin-exam:
Watch this video for more details about melanoma.
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