New York, NY, May 8, 2001 — The incidence of malignant melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, is growing dramatically, at four percent a year. It is currently the most common type of cancer in young men and women aged 25-29. Six thousand five hundred people of all ages will die this year from melanoma.
Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma. Although more and more adults are following their doctors advice and using sunscreen during outdoor activities, many of us are unaware of how important it is to make sure that children, especially infants, get the necessary skin protection.
According to Dr. Desiree Ratner, George H. Fox Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and Director of Dermatologic Surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, people of all ages should follow three guidelines:
(1) The sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and exposure
should be avoided during those hours.
(2) Protective clothing, such as hats and shirts, should be worn.
(3) Use sunblock of at least 15 SPF or higher.
Dr. Ratner says, “A major portion of lifetime sun exposure occurs before 20 years of age. Increased sun exposure in childhood is a risk factor for developing skin cancer in adulthood.” She offers the following tips for protecting children:
· Babies less than six months of age should be kept out of the sun.
· Sunscreen should be applied daily to children over 6 months of age. The American
Academy of Pediatrics has recently modified its recommendation for sunscreen use in
children. Recognizing that adequate clothing and shade may not always be available, the
Academy now advises parents to apply a small amount of sunscreen to the front and back
of the hands and face. However, this should not replace clothing coverage and shade.
Don’t forget the nose, neck and area around the ears.
· Select a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15
or greater. Apply every few hours and after vigorous activity or swimming.
· Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days.
· Don’t forget sunglasses. Eyes also have to be protected.
· Children of all ages should wear hats and protective clothing. A wet, white T-shirt offers
only minimal protection, so select tightly woven colored fabrics when possible.
· Watch out for reflected light. Sunlight bounces off sand, snow, water, and concrete,
reaching your baby’s skin even in the shade.
· When your child is cared for by others, make sure they follow these rules, too.
· There is no “safe tan.” Avoid tanning beds. If teens want the look of a tan, “self-tanners”
may provide a cosmetic alternative but offer no protection from the sun.
· Parents need to set a good example from early on in a child’s life. Make good sun
protection a family routine!
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