Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Many people already know that sunscreen helps prevent UV radiation from damaging your skin and reduces your risk for skin cancer. But do you know what age you should start applying it? Here’s what you need to know to ensure sun protection throughout life.
Start Sun Protection Early
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently released new skin cancer prevention recommendations. The update mentions that healthcare providers should educate parents of fair-skinned children about ways to prevent skin cancer—starting when the child is 6 months old. This is a vast change from the previous recommendations, which suggested this same conversation happen once the child is 10 years old.
It’s OK to use sunscreen on infants older than 6 months. Babies younger than 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. Practice sun safety and use sunscreen throughout your entire life span.
Educate Children and Adolescents
When kids are exposed to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence, they have an increased risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood. This is especially true for those who experienced intense sunburns. But research shows that when children learn about protecting their skin, they’re more likely to practice sun safety. Here are some tips they should learn now and carry with them throughout life:
- Peak UV hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During this time, avoid direct sunlight by finding shade or going inside.
- Select sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. It should be broad-spectrum and block both UVA and UVB rays.
- Thirty minutes before you go outside, apply about a shot-glass full of sunscreen. Reapply every two hours or after sweating excessively or swimming.
- In addition to sunscreen, use UV-blocking sunglasses, sun-protective clothing and a broad-brimmed hat when you’re outside.
- Avoid tanning beds.
Schedule Regular Skin Exams
It’s important to recognize if you or your children have a higher risk for skin cancer than others. Talk with a doctor about how frequently you should get your skin checked if you or a loved one:
- Have used tanning beds
- Live at higher altitudes, like Colorado
- Work or spend a lot of time outdoors
- Have a lot of moles
- Get freckles easily when exposed to the sun
- Sunburn easily
- Have a naturally light skin tone
- Have blue or green eyes
- Have blond, red or light brown hair
- Have a medical condition that weakens the immune system
- Have a family or personal history of skin cancer
Skin cancer is the most treatable form of cancer, especially when caught early. You can trust us for education, early detection and screening, what to expect, and next steps after a diagnosis.
Fore more information, visit the Cancer Centers of Colorado website.