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Protecting Kids From Skin Cancer

Jan 8, 2008
Carefree days and sunny skies just naturally go together. But, those hot, sunny skies pose natural dangers that can harm your kids today, and in the future.

Skin cancer is a disease caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. It's extremely important that we protect our children's delicate skin from the sun's damaging rays, minimizing their chance of developing skin cancer later on in life.

Children must learn the facts about skin cancer, and the earlier, the better. Learning about the dangerous effects of the sun at an early age will help kids to protect themselves in the future. Your child's likelihood of suffering permanent damage or acquiring skin cancer will increase with every episode of unprotected exposure to the sun.

Sun damage can strike at the earliest age. The first time a child experience sun exposure, he or she is considered to be at risk for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It only takes a single blistering sunburn during childhood to double the risk of melanoma later in life. Remember to prevent your children's skin becoming sun burnt, and reduce their unprotected exposure to the sun as much as possible. In doing so, you will be able to decrease their chances of developing skin cancer in adulthood.

Fair haired or redheaded children and those with freckles and green or blue eyes are most at risk of developing skin cancer. However, it is possible for those with darker pigment and complexions to become afflicted with this terrible disease, including children of African or Hispanic descent.

If anyone in your family has a history of melanoma, it's important that you pay particular attention to the welfare of your children. Today, more and more teenagers are being diagnosed with skin cancer than ever before. This frightful trend includes diagnoses of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Children and teenagers love to be independent and make their own choices. That's why it's up to you to set a good example early in life, to help them make better choices for themselves. If you are a positive "sun smart" role model, then your kids will naturally make it part of their routines.

Use sunscreen and hats regularly, and explain why tanning beds should be avoided. Those artificial rays created by tanning beds can be every bit as dangerous as natural UV rays.

The following "safe sun" methods can help protect your children from dangerous sunburn:

* Try to avoid outdoor activities during peak sunlight hours. Children should restrict outdoor play to before 11 am and after 3 pm. The sun's UV rays are strongest during the midday and early afternoon hours, and skin is much more likely to burn.

* Don't be fooled by cool days. The sun is just as intense when the temperature drops. You may not feel the heat, but those dangerous UV rays are still out in full force. You can get sunburn when the weather is cool, so protect yourself. Even skiers know that they should protect their skin on the coldest winter days.

* Encourage your kids to dress in lightweight protective clothing during the summer months. Wide-brimmed hats to protect their faces, necks and ears are an absolute must. Proper hats and clothing can reduce direct exposure to harmful UV rays by 50%.

* Protect your children with sunscreen or sun block that has an SPF of 30 or higher. Waterproof formulas offer the best degree of prolonged protection, but must be reapplied as children swim or work up a sweat playing outdoors.

* Certain fabrics can keep sunlight from seeping through, and block the UV rays. Purchase clothing made of closely-woven fabrics for added protection.

* Plan activities in shady areas, and encourage your children to play there. Of course, UV rays can reflect, so kids must wear hats and sunscreen, even in the shade.

As a parent, you need to take every precaution to protect your children. Start now, because making wise choices for outdoor protection is a lesson that children can and should learn at an early age. Teach them today, and they'll keep their "sun smarts" right into their teenage years and adulthood.
About the Author
Contributor Ernestine Clagge is a writer for numerous web sites, on physical fitness and healthy family themes.
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