Melanoma Is on the Rise in Children

Melanoma is on the rise in children. Learn how to protect your children in the sun while still having fun.

Classic beach picture

There are few sights cuter than a toddler waddling her way along the beach.

There are few sights sadder than a toddler with a raging sunburn, particularly to the eyes of a dermatologist. That’s because we know how damaging even one sunburn can be to a child. In fact, just one blistering sunburn in childhood will more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life. 

An infant’s skin has very little melanin (the pigment that gives the skin its color) which makes them especially vulnerable to sun damage. This is why babies 6 months old and younger should be kept out of the sun completely. Sunscreen is too harsh for their delicate infant skin.

Why is sun protection so important? Because we know that sun damage causes skin cancer in children, adolescents, and adults. While melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is still rare in children, a new report published in April 2013, shows that it is actually rising in children. Researchers from Washington University and Harvard have found that the incidence of childhood and adolescent melanoma has increased an average of 2% per year from 1973 to 2009. Moreover, melanoma is nine times more common between the ages of 10 and 20 than it is between birth and 10 years. So, protecting your child from the sun will help protect her from skin cancer throughout her life.

Here’s how to keep your child safe while still having fun in the sun:

  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 to 50 about 20 minutes before heading outdoors. Reapply every 2 to 4 hours, or more frequently if your child is sweating or swimming. Don’t forget to apply it to their ears, neck, hairline, hands, and feet. Do not use sunscreen on children 6 months old and younger.
  • Cover up: Your child won’t get a sunburn through clothing. So wearing lightweight protective clothing such as long-sleeved tops and pants is an excellent way to prevent sun damage. Consider buying a protective baby suit like this one or a sun-protective rash guard clothing like this long-sleeved top for toddlers.
  • Hats & Sunglasses: They’re not just fashion accessories; they’re sun-protective.
  • Seek the shade: Remember that the sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm, so limiting your child’s time outdoors during those hours will help. If that’s not possible, then be sure to sneak in shade breaks throughout the day.

Skincancer.org offers more helpful information about sun protection for infants, babies, and toddlers.

One more thing…. Have you gotten naked for someone you love yet? May is Melanoma Awareness Month which means it’s time to get naked and do a skin exam. Please help spread the word by posting about this and about your skin check! Use the hashtag #GNFSYL on Twitter.

Photo credit: FCC, Stevie Lee

Get Naked For Someone You Love #GNFSYL

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Get Naked For Someone You to detect skin cancer early.

Mother and son

May is Melanoma Awareness Month. This year I want you to get naked for someone you love.

Why? Because melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer, yet when caught early, can have up to a 98% survival rate. Early detection of melanoma, therefore, is critical. The good news is that you can do something about it: Get naked.

You or someone you care about might have melanoma right now. Full body skin checks save lives and they’re easy to do. You can do it alone, or you can do it with someone you love.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Pick a day in May to get naked and do a skin exam. You’ve got 31 opportunities (and you’re likely to shed clothes at some point, so no excuses!)
  2. Go to this step-by-step self skin exam.
  3. Get naked.
  4. Perform the self skin exam, and take notes. If your husband, wife, or partner is around, then have them do the skin exam for you! Start at the top of the head and work your way down to the toes.
  5. Once you’ve done it, let us know! Post that you did your skin exam on Twitter and use the hashtag #GNFSYL. Share it on other social media platforms you use too.
  6. Share this story. There are thousands of undiagnosed melanomas out there right now and by catching even one early, someone’s life will be saved this month. It might be someone you love.

Melanoma Facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes.
  • An estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013.
  • About 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for young people 15-29 years old.
  • A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age.
  • One or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.