Melanoma: On the Rise in Children

No one can deny the absolute cuteness of a toddler in a bathing suit splashing around in the waves at the beach. There is just something so sweet about those tiny arms and legs and a roly-poly belly sticking out in the warm sunshine. Yet, exposing those sweet limbs and belly without proper sunscreen is not a cute situation. And it is one that has dermatologists fearful for children.

Just one blistering sunburn as a child will more than double a his or her chances of developing melanoma later in life. An infant’s skin has very little melanin which makes him or her incredibly vulnerable to sun damage. All pediatricians emphasize the importance of keeping babies six months old and younger out of the sun completely. Their skin is too delicate for sunscreen, therefore, they can not be protected from the damaging rays of the sun.

Sun protection in children is so very important. The sun damages everyone’s skin, but especially the delicate, developing skin of children.  A new study in Pediatrics (the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) shows that cases of melanoma is rising in children. From 1973 to 2009, childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2% per year. Those are staggering statistics given that melanoma was once incredibly rare in children.

When your children are out in the sun they need to cover up. The sun cannot cause a sunburn through clothing, so wearing lightweight clothing (such as swim shirts) is an excellent way to protect the skin. Also, 20 minutes prior to being outdoors, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher should be applied. It should also be reapplied every 2-4 house, or more often if your child is sweating or swimming. Hats and sunglasses also provide protection from harmful rays. And it is important to remember that the sun is the strongest between 10 am – 4 pm. Limiting time outside during these hours can protect the skin immensely.

Children depend on their parents and other caring adults to care for their skin. Don’t take lightly the responsibility you have to protect them from melanoma.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Jodi E. Ganz, Olansky Dermatology Associates

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