Childhood Skin Cancer a Growing Concern – Help Your Child Develop Good Habits

Childhood Skin Cancer a Growing Concern - Help Your Child Develop Good Habits

Childhood Skin Cancer a Growing Concern

It’s summertime and kids are running every which way and can’t wait to jump in the pool, play on the playground or play ball with friends. Every day is a flurry, getting the car packed, water bottles filled, meals made and everyone dressed properly for the day’s activities. Oftentimes, one very important step goes unnoticed, at least until the next morning when your child wakes up looking more like a lobster than a girl or boy.

That’s using sunscreen every day.  Childhood sunburn can increase the risk of developing skin cancer early, or later in life, according to the Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), and with more than 3.5 million Americans developing skin cancer every year, it’s worth a few minutes to protect your child’s largest organ, their skin.

How do you get your child to make sunburn prevention a priority? Give 'em the facts and make if fun!

How do you get your child to make sunburn prevention a priority? Give ‘em the facts and make if fun!

Important Facts

  • Before the age of 20, most people have received more than 50 percent of their lifetime dose of ultraviolet rays, according to the BCH.

  • There are three different types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.

  • Between the ages of 10 and 20, melanoma is nine times more common than it is between birth and 10 years of age.


The American Association of Dermatology has developed an easy acronym that helps remind you how to practice safe sun by declaring WAR on skin cancer.

  • Wear protective clothing including: sunglasses that are UVA/UVB protective, clothing that covers the body and a hat that shades the face, neck and chest if possible.

  • Apply sunscreen or sun lotion every 60-80 minutes or as directed on the label. Factors such as prolonged sun exposure, excessive sweating and swimming may require more frequent application.

    • Pay special attention to hands, lips, ears, eyelids and the tops of feet-these areas are often neglected during application.

    • Infants six months or younger should be kept out of the sun.

  • Regularly use sunscreen or sunblock with at least a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15. Higher SPF may be recommended for fairer skinned children or children spending prolonged time in the sun, especially during the peak hours between 10 a.m and 4 p.m.

    • Remember, sunburns can still occur on cloudy days.

Other useful tips to prevent sunburn:

  • Teach children good habits such as applying sunscreen or sunblock in the morning, before school and playtime. Once a child has learned the proper way to apply sunscreen and how much is needed, they can apply it themselves before recess, swimming, and after-school sports programs.

  • Spray lotions are a popular and easier way for children to protect their skin. Their light weight makes them perfect for backpacks and overnight bags.

  • Apply sunscreen or sunblock at least 30 minutes before exposure to sunlight. One ounce is the recommended amount by the EPA to cover skin. Coppertone provides a series of different products for kids with SPF of 75, including a fun easy to use wacky foam lotion. Another fun sunscreen is Zany Zinc. The lotion comes in five different colors such as green, blue, yellow, pink and white.

  • Share information with children on the dangers of tanning beds. Just one visit to the tanning bed can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer by 20% according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

  • Sitting in the shade protects from direct sunlight but the pavement, water, sand and even snow can reflect up to 85% of the sun’s harmful rays.

  • Give your child a skin examination and be sure to make note of any birthmarks, large freckles and any other dark spots.

Help your child understand the importance of skin protection with these links:

Sun Safety Resources for Kids

Mission SunWise Storybook (grades K-3)

Mission SunWise Activity Book (grades K-3)

Comic Book: On the Trail of the Missing Ozone (grades 4-8)

SunWise Zoo Activity Sheet (all ages)

SunWise Animal Quiz

Important Resources for Parents

EPA Action Steps for Skin Protection

The Skin Cancer Foundation

The American Cancer Society

Boston Children’s Hospital

American Academy of Dermatology


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