Is your baby's skin protected from the sun? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report on ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure in children, rates of skin cancer—including melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer—are on the rise, even in young people. Published in the March 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics, updated sun safety guidelines from the AAP call on parents and caregivers to step up skin cancer prevention efforts by making sure children wear proper clothing and hats, timing outdoor activities to minimize peak midday sun, applying sunscreen, and wearing sunglasses. AAP guidelines also stress that infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected with clothing and hats.
Have older kids? The report also addresses the use of tanning beds by tweens and teens. According to at least one national survey, 24 percent of non-Hispanic white teenagers 13 to 19 years of age used a tanning facility at least once. In their report, the AAP supports legislation prohibiting access to tanning salons or use of artificial tanning devices by children under the age of 18.
According to skin cancer experts, only six severe sunburns in a lifetime increase risk of melanoma by 50 percent. How best to protect your baby's skin? "It is important that parents, teachers and physicians ... encourage children to wear at least 30 SPF sunscreen and reapply it every two to three hours spent outdoors; avoid sun exposure during peak hours of intensity from 10 AM to 4 PM, and wear sun-protective clothing. One study estimated a 78 percent drop in skin cancer risk if parents protect their children from significant sun exposure in the first 18 years of life," says Dr. Thomas Rohrer, secretary of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, in a released statement.
To check for signs of skin irregularities or potential problems, Dr. Rohrer recommends that parents and caregivers monitor their children's moles and freckles for the ABCDEs—asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, diameter, and evolving. If any of these signs are noticed, be sure to bring it to the attention of your child's pediatrician.