Friday, January 16, 2009

Children At Risk Of Skin Cancer

ProtectionImage by Hryckowian via Flickrby Ernestine Clagge

Childhood should be a carefree and playful time. Unfortunately, the time kids' spend playing can be putting them at risk of developing a future case of skin cancer.

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. By learning at an early age about the dangers of the sun, our kids will be better prepared to protect themselves for a lifetime. The more that children experience unprotected exposure to the sun, the more likely they are to suffer from permanent skin damage or even skin cancer.

Even the youngest child can experience sun damage. The first time a child is exposed to the sun, he or she is considered to be at risk for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer. One blistering sunburn during childhood can double the risk of melanoma later in life. Reducing unprotected exposure to the sun is the only sure way to prevent your child's skin from burning. If you can do this, you'll decrease his or her chances of developing skin cancer in adulthood.

Children with red or fair hair, green or blue eyes and kids with freckles face the highest risks of developing skin cancer. Still, it is possible for children with darker hair, pigment and complexions to become afflicted with this terrible disease. Children of African or Hispanic descent are very much at risk.

Pay particular attention to sun safety if anyone in your family has a history of melanoma or other types of skin cancer. No one in your family is too young for this dreadful disease. There is even a rising trend of teenagers being diagnosed with skin cancer. These frightful statistics include diagnoses of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Children and teens naturally love to be independent, making their own choices about everything and anything. That's why it's so important for you to be a good role model. Begin practicing safe sun routines when your children are infants, and they will grow up with the knowledge and understanding needed to make their own smart choices.

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:

* Don't schedule outdoor activities during peak sunlight hours. Instead, make sure that your children restrict their outdoor playtime to the hours before 11 am and after 3 pm. Their skin has a better chance of burning during midday and early afternoon hours, when the sun's UV rays are really beating down.

* On cool days, the sun is every bit as dangerous. Even when the temperature drops, you and your kids are still at risk. Those UV rays are out in full force, even when you don't feel the heat. Take your cue from the professional skiers, and protect yourself, and your kids, even when the weather is cool.

* 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 outdoor activities in shady areas and encourage your kids to play there. UV rays can and will reflect, so children still need to wear their hats and sunscreen, even under a shade.

As parents, we need to take every precaution to protect our children. Making wise choices for outdoor protection is a lesson that children can and should learn at an early age, so they'll continue to be "sun smart" as teens and adults as well.
About the Author

Essayist Ernestine Clagge contributes articles to numerous popular web magazines, on health discovery and healthy living topics.

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