With the fourth of July holiday approaching, pediatric skin cancer specialists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are warning parents to take the necessary steps to protect their children when they are out in the sun enjoying the Fourth of July holiday.
“During this upcoming Fourth of July holiday, it is imperative for parents to protect their children from the harmful effects of extreme sun exposure,” said Alberto Pappo, M.D., director of the Solid Tumor Division at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “Children are at risk of getting skin cancer due to the strong sun rays. They are not immune from getting cancer just because they are young. While rare, melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer in younger patients and affects mostly teenagers. If diagnosed early, it can be treated effectively.”
Simple and Effective Tips to Protect Children
- Try to Avoid Going Outdoors When Sun’s Rays are the Strongest – Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., children should avoid direct UV rays as best possible.
- For Infants Younger than 6 Months of Age, No Sun at All is Best – They can be at the beach or outdoors this summer, but need to be covered up, have on a hat and cover up their neck and extremities. It is best to avoid sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old because they can get significantly more exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen compared to older patients.
- Use of Sunscreen to Prevent Sunburns – Sunscreen should be broad spectrum (effective against both UVA and UVB rays) and at least 15 SPF, although there is little evidence that anything above 50 SPF provides additional protective effects.
- Regular Reapplication of Sunscreen is Necessary – Water-resistant sunscreen does NOT mean it should be applied only once. No more than a couple of hours should pass between applications, especially if one is sweating and in and out of the water.
- Avoid Tanning Beds – The increase in melanoma among teenagers is partly due to their use of tanning beds. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that indoor tanning beds increase melanoma risk 75 percent in people who begin using them before the age of 30.
- Early Diagnosis is Key – If a child has a mole, parents should make their pediatrician aware as soon as possible. Early identification and removal of melanoma is critical. If caught early, chances for survival are significantly higher. Early detection also means less invasive surgical procedures may be necessary, as well as a smaller chance of the tumor spreading.