Recent headlines have put sun safety back in the news for better and worse. While public awareness has increased regarding the risks of excessive sun exposure, there is still a long way to go.
One major breakthrough is progress on a personalized vaccine for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. At the same time, skin cancer has increased among all ages. One study found that seniors in Britain are 7 times more likely to develop melanoma compared to 40 years ago.
If you’re wondering whether tanning beds are a safer alternative, think again. Many doctors now recommend strengthening the warning signs to say they cause cancer.
Fortunately, most of the risks of sun exposure can be eliminated through healthy sun habits. Try these steps for protecting yourself and your children.
Sun Safety Tips for Kids
It’s especially important to minimize early sun exposure. The greatest risk factor for skin cancer is the sunlight you receive before age 20.
1. Keep babies in the shade. Doctors advise against using sunscreen on babies less than 6 months old because they may be sensitive to the chemicals they contain. That means infants need to be kept out of direct sunlight. Dress your baby in a hat and clothes that provide full coverage. Buy a stroller with a canopy and treat your car windows with UV film.
2. Watch your toddler. Toddlers are too busy exploring the world to worry about staying under a beach umbrella. In addition to sunscreen, keep an eye on how much sun they’re catching.
3. Educate your teens. Teens may believe that tanning is glamorous. Discuss the long-term effects and go shopping for high fashion sunhats.
4. Talk with your child’s school. How can your kids reapply their sunscreen if their school classifies it as a medication that requires special forms? Join with other parents to encourage reasonable policies.
Sun Safety Tips for All Ages
Managing sun exposure is a life-long concern. The effects are cumulative, so it pays to be extra careful if you already had sunburns as a child.
1. Apply sunscreen correctly. It takes a full ounce of sunscreen to cover the average body. Remember the spots that often get missed like ears and the sides of your torso and legs.
2. Avoid the hottest hours. Midday sun is the strongest. If possible, arrange your schedule to be indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
3. Wear protective clothing. While some clothing is advertised as providing extra sun protection, the FDA typically does not regulate those claims. You can achieve the same results for less money with any garment that adequately covers your skin.
4. Put on sunglasses. Your eyes need shade as well. Check that the label indicates broad-spectrum protection when buying both sunscreen and sunglasses.
5. Be vigilant year round. Forget about slacking off in winter. Just like sand and concrete, snow reflects the sun, and you can become sunburned on cloudy days.
6. Spray it on. If you still want to brown your skin, spray products are a smart solution. Test a spot on your arm first to ensure you aren’t allergic to a product before spreading it all over.
7. Inspect your body. Regular skin examinations are essential for both children and adults because most melanomas can be seen by the naked eye, and cured when caught in the early stages. Pay attention to moles and any changes in your skin. See your doctor promptly to discuss any concerns, and find the right level of protection based on your family’s lifestyle.
Enjoy the sun and take in the vitamin D your body needs without increasing your risk for premature aging and skin cancer. Wear sunscreen, avoid the hottest hours, and practice other simple and healthy sun habits.