Does your child use sunscreen everyday? I know parents talk (nag) their children about the importance of wearing sunscreen, especially during these “lazy days of summer”. The bigger question is, “does your pediatrician counsel your children on sun safety as well?”
In a recent study researchers from Baylor College of Medicine found that a doctor’s instructions may also help young people to understand that sun exposure and indoor tanning harms the skin. The message about sun safety should not only include that sun damage “will make your skin look ugly”, but that at the same time, “it may ultimately lead you down the road to skin cancer”.
I often point out areas of sun damage on sunburned shoulders or chests and also those cute freckled noses that are prime targets for later skin cancer. I am graphic enough to talk about the skin doctor who will one day have to take a “chunk” out of your cute nose or on your chest (especially important for a teen girl) which will leave a ugly scar, and maybe no more “low cut” dresses.
By making sun-safe behavioral changes at a young age there is a better chance of impacting tweens/teens risk of developing skin cancer later in life. Starting a conversation about sun safety (or obesity), with adults over 21 is just too late. The changes need to begin early and the message should be frequent (at least at yearly check ups).
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force is also backing early counseling for sun safety. Knowing that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with reports that the incidence of melanomas is increasing (about 70,000 cases in 2011), only reinforces the need to teach being “sun smart” to kids.
So remind your pediatrician to talk to your kids about using sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds. Watch for the new labels on sunscreen that will be coming from the FDA as well. Lastly, model sun safe behavior and use sunscreen and hats yourself, I see a new cute sun hat in my vacation bag, along with lots of sunscreen in sprays, lotions and sticks!!