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Advanced Dermatology PC, April 2003 -Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. More cases of skin cancer are diagnosed per year than lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined. More than one million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2003. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that we get approximately 80% of our lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18. It is estimated that just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles the risk of getting melanoma later in life.
“Overexposure to the sun is still the number one skin cancer risk factor, noted dermatologist Joshua Fox, M.D., Director of Advanced Dermatology P.C. and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery , a large dermatology, laser & cosmetic surgery practice with offices in NYC and Long Island. “While this is a fairly well known fact, parents and caregivers have an additional responsibility of both protecting and teaching their children how to protect themselves from the sun,” added Fox.
So what are the most important lessons that parents, caregivers and children themselves need to learn about protecting against skin cancer? Fox offers that lessons learned young are often the best lessons of all. Families practicing good sun protection help set the stage for smart and conscientious sun protection behavior throughout life. Fox details 5 basic and actionable precautions for parents:
1. Use sunscreens everyday, 24/7, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and with both UVA and UVB protection. Fox offers that making sunscreen a regular part of a child’s daily health ritual (brush your teeth and hair, and using sunscreen on face, neck & arms) will have tremendous effect on lowering the incidents of skin cancer. Fox adds that children under the age of 6 months should not wear sunblock and should not be exposed to the direct sun at all.
2. Wear a hat. Sounds basic but it helps. Fox suggests that a hat with a wide brim covering the neck, face and ears goes a long way at reducing the impact of the sun’s rays on a child’s skin.
3. Wear protective clothing when possible. This might include shirts with sleeves and tightly woven long pants. Fox offers that this is particularly important for children playing sports or doing other outdoor activity during the hottest hours of the day.
4. Limit sun exposure between 10 am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. This is a challenging precaution for many children, but it is a critical aspect of reducing incidents of skin cancers. Fox offers that this doesn’t mean children should stay inside between 10 and 4. Rather children should try to reduce the time they spend under the suns strongest rays. Fox reminds that every minute in the sun has a harmful effect. There is no such thing as a healthy tan.
5. Don’t forget sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunglasses offer yet another strategy for blocking the sun from the skin. Fox suggests that parents make sure that they buy sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays.