As the summer season approaches, pediatric skin cancer scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are alerting parents of genetic research showing that sun damage contributes to melanoma in children and adolescents as well as adults. The research underscores the need for precautionary measures necessary to avoid extreme sun exposure for children, including the implementation of routine prevention measures.
“Don’t assume children cannot get skin cancer because of their age. Unlike other cancers, the conventional melanoma that we see mostly in adolescents behaves the same as it does in adults,” said Dr. Pappo. “Children are not immune from extreme sun damage and parents should start sun protection early and make it a habit for life.”
Try to Avoid Going Outdoors When Sun’s Rays are the Strongest – Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., children should avoid direct UV rays as best possible.
For Infants Younger than 6 Months of Age, No Sun at All is Best – They can be at the beach or outdoors this summer, but need to be covered up, have on a hat and cover up their neck and extremities. It is best to avoid sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old because they can get significantly more exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen compared to older patients.
Use of Sunscreen to Prevent Sunburns – Sunscreen should be broad spectrum (effective against both UVA and UVB rays) and at least 15 SPF, although there is little evidence that anything above 50 SPF provides additional protective effects.
Regular Reapplication of Sunscreen is Necessary – Water-resistant sunscreen does NOT mean it should be applied only once. No more than a couple of hours should pass between applications, especially if one is sweating and in and out of the water.
Avoid Tanning Beds – The increase in melanoma among teenagers is partly due to their use of tanning beds. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has determined that indoor tanning beds increase melanoma risk 75 percent in people who begin using them before the age of 30.
Early Diagnosis is Key – If a child has a mole, parents should make their pediatrician aware as soon as possible. Early identification and removal of melanoma is critical. If caught early, chances for survival are significantly higher. Early detection also means less invasive surgical procedures may be necessary, as well as a smaller chance of the tumor spreading.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and cures childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. St. Jude is ranked the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital by U.S. News & World Report. Treatments developed at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude freely shares the breakthroughs it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing and food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. To learn more, visit stjude.org or follow St. Jude on social media at @stjuderesearch.