The statistics are scary - one person in the U.S. dies about every hour from melanoma, and 20 percent of Americans will get skin cancer during their lifetime. In fact, melanoma, which is seen primarily in adults over age 50, now strikes kids as young as age 10. This is partly due to the fact that the UV-blocking ozone layer has thinned, a vital reason you need to be vigilant about protecting your kids.
As the prevalence of skin cancer increases worldwide, countries like Australia are making sun prevention a public health priority. And because the sun causes more than 80% of skin damage, it’s important to start early if we want to prevent skin cancer in children.
While sunscreen is important, it is only part of the strategy in ultimately preventing skin cancer from developing in children. Here are some strategies that Australians use to protect skin:
- Cover up using the Aussie mantra of: Slip! Slop! Slap! Translated, that means slip on a shirt with long sleeves and a collar, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat with a two- to three-inch brim that shades the nose, ears, and back of the neck. Many Australian schools have uniforms made of sun-protective fabrics and don’t let students play outdoors unless they Slip! Slop! Slap! This awareness has probably had a great impact in reducing the incidence of skin cancer in Australia and will certainly help in preventing skin cancer in children.
- Focus on fabric. Because of their sunny climate, Australians were the first to realize that regular clothing doesn’t offer as much protection as people think. They have pioneered ways to manufacture UV-blocking fabrics that use tighter weaves or chemically treated material and created the UPF rating system which rates the protection that clothing delivers.
- Be shady. Australians have built many shaded playgrounds and public places to protect everyone from the harmful effects of the sun and which will go a long way towards preventing skin cancer from developing in children.
Reduce or prevent skin cancer risk in children by practicing safe sun habits such as:
- Keeping out of the sun between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are most harmful
- Using a minimum of SPF 15 sunscreen everyday. Select one that is photostable (meaning it won’t degrade in the sunlight) and offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays like Anthelios by La Roche Posay
- Seeking shade or covering up with protective clothing when you must be outside
- Wearing UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
Prevention is key and by following safe sun practices you will be able to minimize the risk and hopefully prevent skin cancer from developing in your children.