|You can limit your children's chance of getting skin cancer by limiting their exposure to the sun, using sunscreen regularly, and learning to examine your children's skin for suspicious moles and lesions.
The most serious type of cancer of the skin is melanoma. Each year in the United States, about 60,000 people learn they have melanoma, including about 500 kids. There are also two more common and less serious types of skin cancer, squamous cell and basal cell cancer.
You should be aware of the warning signs of skin cancer which includes moles or birthmarks that have these characteristics (notify you doctor):
- Asymmetry: in which one half of the mole isn't the same as the other.
- Border: the moles edges are irregular or notched.
- Color: the color isn't the same throughout the mole, especially if it has a mix of tan, brown, white, red, pink, gray, blue, or black.
- Diameter: the mole is larger than 5mm (about 1/4 inch or the size of a pencil eraser).
- Elevation: the mole has recently become raised.
You should notify your child's doctor if you notice any of the above characteristics or warning signs; if a mole is quickly changing in size or color; if the outline becomes notched; if the surface becomes rough, scaly or ulcerated; if it itches, tingles, bleeds, weeps; or looks different from other moles on his body.
People who are most at risk for developing melanoma, or skin cancer, have the following characteristics:
- Frequently blisters and gets sunburn after exposure to the sun and had multiple episodes of sunburn during childhood.
- Has excessive exposure to the sun, especially during childhood.
- Has fair skin.
- Has a family history of skin cancer.
- Has many (more than 50) ordinary moles: Having many moles increases the risk of developing melanoma.
You can decrease your child's chances of developing skin cancer by avoiding known risk factors and learning to recognize signs of skin cancer. You can also help prevent and reduce your children's risk of melanoma caused by UV radiation by teaching them to:
- Avoid exposure to the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) whenever possible. When your shadow is shorter than you are, remember to protect yourself from the sun.
- If they must be outside, have them wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hat with a wide brim.
- Protect them from UV radiation that can penetrate light clothing, windshields, and windows.
- Protect them from UV radiation reflected by sand, water, snow, and ice.
- Help protect your children's skin by using a lotion, cream, or gel that contains sunscreen. Many doctors believe sunscreens may help prevent melanoma, especially sunscreens that reflect, absorb, and/or scatter both types of ultraviolet radiation. These sunscreen products will be labeled with broad-spectrum coverage. Sunscreens are rated in strength according to a sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection is provided. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 to 11 provide minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 to 29 provide moderate protection. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher provide the most protection against sunburn.
- Teach your children to wear sunglasses that have UV-absorbing lenses. The label should specify that the lenses block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Sunglasses can protect both the eyes and the skin around the eyes.