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June 2018

Parents: Skin Cancer Prevention Starts Early

According to new recommendations, skin cancer prevention should start early. Like, really early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is a group of health experts who make research-backed recommendations about screenings and services people should receive to prevent disease. Recently, the USPSTF proposed updating its skin-cancer prevention guidelines to recommend healthcare providers start counseling parents of fair-skinned children about ways to prevent skin cancer when their child is just 6 months old. Previously, the USPSTF recommended providers start this conversation with parents when children are 10 years old.

Mother and young daughter talking with doctor

Know your risk

In the U.S., skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others. You may be more at risk if you:

  • Have fair skin, light hair and eye color, and freckles

  • Sunburn easily

  • Have lots of moles

  • Have a family history of skin cancer

  • Use tanning beds

  • Have had skin cancer in the past

Research shows that UV radiation from the sun during childhood and adolescence raises the risk of developing skin cancer later in life, especially for people who suffer severe sunburns during their early years. But those who get information about how to safeguard their skin against the sun’s rays are more likely to practice sun safety. Since damage can occur from a very young age, the earlier you start taking those steps, the better.

Sun-blocking strategies

While skin cancer prevention should begin during infancy, protecting your skin from UV radiation exposure is a life-long task. Here’s how you can do just that:

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

  • Don’t use tanning beds.

  • Wear broad-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing when outside.

  • Stay out of direct sunlight and seek shade during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Keep babies younger than 6 months old out of the sun. Use sunscreen on babies ages 6 months and older.

If you have questions about protecting your child’s skin, talk with your child’s healthcare provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Lazebnik, Rina, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/18/2018
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