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

Sun Safe Tee: Aiming to Keep Golfers Sun Safe

Sun Safe Tee is a non-profit charity devoted to educating golfers about the importance of sun protection and early detection of skin cancer.

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Mark Wishner was first diagnosed with skin cancer in his mid-30‘s. “It very much caught me by surprise. It was a basal cell carcinoma that was treated successfully,” he says.

Then one day, the golf-loving San Diegan was watching a tournament on TV that took place on a scorching day. “It showed the players cooking out in the sun and I thought, Who teaches golfers to wear sunscreen?

Inspired, Wishner began researching the issue and realized no one was addressing the golf community about the importance of sun protection. He contacted a few friends and fellow golfers including Dr. Curt Littler (son of Gene Littler, who won the US Open in 1961), and soon, SunSafeTee.org was born.

Sun Safe Tee is a 501-C3 non-profit charity dedicated to educating the golf community about the importance of sun protection, the risks of skin cancer, and the benefits of early detection.

Though no studies have actually looked at the incidence of skin cancer among golfers, anecdotal evidence is strong that they are a high-risk group. “Golfers spend a lot of time in the sun. A round of golf takes between 4 1/2 to 5 hours which is a long time to be in the sun, especially without proper protection,” says Wisher.

That’s where the Sun Safe Tee program comes into play. They provide educational materials, offer skin cancer screenings, and conduct both in-person and virtual events across the country. And since several dermatologists sit on the board, Wishner assures that “all information is vetted, screened, and accurate.”

The majority of the Sun Safe Tee program is geared towards junior golfers, ages 7 to 18. “We know that sun exposure before the age of 25 is critical,” says Wisher, “so we really want to teach them while their young so they can develop a lifetime of safe sun practices.”

To reach more youth, Sun Safe Tee partners with many groups including the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). They’re also part of The First Tee curriculum, a national program dedicated to teaching children ages 7 to 18 life skills and values through the game of golf.

To date, the Sun Safe Tee curriculum has been taught to over 400,000 children. And Wishner is seeing changes in their behaviors. While at a junior golf tournament recently Wishner was talking to a teenage boy who was disappointed with his poor round. To Wishner’s amazement, the boy added, “But I did remember to reapply at the turn!”

“Don’t burn, reapply at the turn,” is one of Sun Safe Tee’s slogans. It refers to the half-way point or “the turn” in a round of golf when kids are taught to reapply sunscreen.

He’s also seeing young golfers applying sunscreen more often, using UVB- protected umbrellas on their carts that block 98 to 100 % of UV rays. And most importantly, he’s seeing them cover up. “Wearing clothing as a non-chemical, physical barrier to the sun is just about the best thing you can do to protect yourself from the sun,” says Wishner. So he never tires of telling the kids, “Cover up before you tee it up!”

It’s those kind of behavioral changes that buoy Wishner’s resolve. “We’d love to see skin cancer get the kind of national public awareness that other diseases like Alzheimer’s have gotten, especially in the golf community,” says Wishner. To that end, he’s seeking a professional golfer who would like to champion the cause and continues to plan exciting events in conjunction with golf tournaments across the country.

If you’d like to sponsor a Sun Safe Tee event at your organization then email Mark Wishner at mwishner {AT} sunsafetee {DOT} org. For more information about Sun Safe Tee, visit their website at SunSafeTee.org.

Photo credit: FCC, Makelessnoise

Guest post written by Susan Russo.

4 Back-to-School Habits For a Healthy Family

4 back-to-school habits for healthy family: Get more sleep, eat meals together, exercise together, and limit time on digital devices.

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Millions of kids across the country will be starting school this week and learning new routines. It’s not a bad idea for moms and dads too. (Starting new routines, not retaking 6th grade).

Even if they don’t need help with fractions, your kids could you use some help from Mom and Dad. Kids who see parents engaged in healthy behaviors are more likely to follow their lead. With that in mind, here are few tips to help make back-to-school time a little easier and healthier for the whole family.

1. Sleep TIme: Establish a light outs time when everyone needs to be in bed. Kids need anywhere from 8 to 11 hours of sleep per night, depending on their age, activity level, and personal needs. Parents could benefit from more sleep too. So set your alarm at night to tell you when to go to bed to ensure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. And don’t hit the snooze button when it goes off.

2. Eat Meals Together: Studies show that children who eat meals with their families are less likely to have behavioral problems, more likely to do well in school, and more likely to have a healthier diet. It doesn’t have to be dinner. Any meal counts, including breakfast.

3. Digital & Device-Free Time: Set a time, maybe 30 or 60 minutes a day, when everyone in the family has to be digital and device-free — no texting, emailing, tweeting, or pinning.

4. Move Together: We all know exercise is good for us. It’s especially important for kids. According to Let’s Move.gov, 8 to 18 year-olds spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using digital devices such as computers and cell phones, while only 1/3 of high school students get the recommended level of physical activity. Set times when the family will do something fun and active together: it could be Sunday morning bike rides, Friday afternoon swims, or nightly dancing to Wii. My 10-year-old niece highly recommends Just Dance 3 with Katy Perry.

What are your healthy family habits? Please share them with us below.

Photo credit: FCC, USDAgov

Healthy Skin Site for Kids

Kids Skin Health Site

Math, reading, writing, dermatology. It’s back-to-school time, and any medical student will tell you it’s never too early to start learning dermatology. Here is a website from the American Academy of Dermatology to teach the little dermdocs in your house. It has information kids can use for homework, tips for healthy skin, and even a few games. Thankfully they didn’t require me to submit my “Skintastic Game” score to get into derm.