This World Cancer Day, take steps to protect your kids from skin cancer

This World Cancer Day, take steps to protect your kids from skin cancer

February 4 is World Cancer Day. WorldCancerDay.org states that the day is an opportunity to "take a positive and proactive approach to the fight against cancer, highlighting that solutions do exist across the continuum of cancer, and that they are within our reach."

Each year, approximately 14 million people worldwide learn they have cancer, and 8 million people die from the disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). World Cancer Day highlights ways that people can reduce their risk, noting that as many as one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma rates among teens and people in their early 20’s are increasing at what some dermatologist are calling epidemic rates and it kills more young women below the age of 29 that any other form of cancer.

I'm one of the millions who has had basal cell carcinoma, and that puts me at an increased risk for melanoma. I obviously have a personal reason to take precautions and do what I can to protect myself from the sun, but being sun smart is listed time and again as one of the best ways for everyone reduce their cancer risk.

Much of a person's lifetime sun exposure comes before they reach age 18, it makes sense to talk about making sure tweens and teens are being sun smart. What does being sun smart mean? basetan_623_806

* wearing the right sunscreen of at least SPF 15 with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection;

* wearing sunscreen even when it is cool or cloudy, not just when you're baking at the beach, because UV rays are an issue even when it is cool or cloudy;

* reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours;

* wearing hats, sunglasses and protective clothing;

*seeking shade, particularly at midday; and

* for the love of God, avoiding tanning beds.

As a parent, it's your job to make sure your kids know the importance of sunscreen, that they have hats and sunglasses (yes, I know they lose them all the time but it really is important to have them), and that they see you modeling all of the above, including applying sunscreen. This is beneficial in two ways: it reduces your risk of sun damage, and teaches your kids good sun sense.

Talk with them about how a tan is a sign of damaged skin and that, no matter what the media or their peers say, it isn't worth it.

Dr. Travis Kidner writes, “We must educate ourselves that there is no such thing as a healthy tan.” We must educate our children, too, especially our tweens and teens.

I've also found that it's important to have products on hand that my tween likes. Right now, she's into PREP, skin products that are specifically for girls ages 9-15, especially the SPF 30 face + body lotion. I used SPF 15 moisturizer every morning and still ended up with basal cell carcinoma.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends daily use of at least SPF 30 sun protection. I thought I was being good, but I wasn't being good enough. Also, the AAD's recommendation applies to kids.

I don't want my daughter to go through what I did so she's using the PREP face lotion because it is SPF 30. Yes, even though it is February and even though it's really cold outside.

The CDC notes that "[b]y focusing on known prevention methods, countries have made major progress in the global fight against skin cancer." They specifically highlight Brazil, which was the the first country to ban indoor tanning and it did so in 2009, and Australia, where a national ban on tanning took effect in December 2014 with the goal of reducing the high rates of death from skin cancer.

No national ban is in the works in this country, sadly, but hopefully we will see the number of skin cancer cases continue to decline if we all take these simple and easy steps and protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Melanoma is no joke. If you and/or your kids aren't convinced, please read Your Tan May Be Killing You written by ChicagoNow blogger and stage IV melanoma patient Donna.

Take care of yourselves, friends.

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