Oh how I wish I could turn back time! I remember my parents always reminding me as a kid to slather on the sunscreen. The older I got the more invincible I thought I was. I traded in the sunscreen for the tanning oil and, sometimes, the beach for the tanning bed. It’s perhaps one of my deepest regrets, especially now that I am a mother. It’s not so much the wrinkles I regret, but the fact I significantly upped my risk for skin cancer for what I thought was the sake of beauty.
The statistics are alarming. It’s estimated one person dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour in the United States. Melanoma is not an older person’s disease. I was stunned to learn it’s the second most common cancer among adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15-29, according to St. Joseph’s Hospital. It is also estimated that one or more blistering sunburns in childhood or adolescence more than doubles the chance or developing melanoma later in life.
“Teaching children important habits now — like seeking shade, applying sunscreen and wearing protection clothing — can ensure that these habits become routine as they grow older. Any new mole on a tween/teen should be examined by a dermatologist,” says Dr. Panayiotis Vasiloudes, a pediatric dermatologist with St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Dr. Vasiloudes’ Top 5 Tips for the Family
Use broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB protection) sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. Use enough sunscreen and apply generously. Apply at least 15 minutes before going outside and use a lip balm with SPF 30.
Avoid the peak sun intensity hours, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., , when UV light is strongest.
Wear protective clothing, including hats, sunglasses and long sleeves.
Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours to remain protected or immediately after swimming or excessively sweating.
Seek shade whenever possible (be sunwise).
Babies (6 months and younger)
Keep your infant out of direct sunlight and plan your daily walk in the morning or late afternoon.
If you must be outside, keep your baby in the shade or under a cover.
Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses are not only adorable on little ones they also offer sun protection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says it is OK to apply a small amount of sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside if there is no way to avoid the sun.
If you are going swimming, dress your baby in UPF (Ultraviolet Protective Factor) swimwear.
If you are searching for the best sunscreen for your family, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its 2014 Sunscreen Guide, which lists 149 sunscreens that meet its criteria of effectiveness and least amount of exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals.
Keep in mind, a high SPF does not mean greater protection. So avoid sunscreens with SPFs of more than 50, which may give you a false sense of security. Look for SPFs between 15 and 50. The EWG also discourages the use of spray sunscreens due to the risk of inhalation of the product. You also can limit your exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals by avoiding bug repellant/sunscreen combos. You have to reapply sunscreen more often. If you must use bug repellant, buy it separately and apply it first. I encourage you to visit EWG’s website, www.EWG.org/2014sunscreen, to see if your favorite sunscreen made the cut.
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