Skin Care Tips for Safe Fun in the Summer Sun

cute child applying sunscreen at the beach

The warm summer rays may bring fun times, but also a hidden danger – pediatric melanoma. Although pediatric melanoma is still extremely rare, it is on the rise — with an April 2013 study stating that U.S. pediatric cases rose 2 percent per year between 1973 and 2009. Pediatric dermatologist Latanya Benjamin, MD, at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is happy to provide tips for parents and kids alike, as even one blistering sunburn can not only leave kids red and peeling, but also increase two-fold their lifetime risk of deadly melanoma.

Dr. Benjamin has a few key skin care tips for parents:

  • Be on the lookout for the telltale signs of melanoma. Dr. Benjamin says parents should look out for bumps that itch and bleed, or blemishes that may look like warts without pigment or that have a pinkish color. Lesions that may have little or no coloring and odd-looking moles — especially those larger in size or those that look different than a child’s other moles — can also spell trouble.
  • In addition, parents can use an ABCDE rule to evaluate moles that may be suspicious: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color, Diameter (larger than 1/4 inch), and Evolution (the kid’s mole changes over time).
  • Mind the time of day. The peak sun hours where kids are the most exposed are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Even if they apply sunscreen, they are typically sweating it off if they are playing sports. “I would recommend that parents teach their kids to reapply sunscreen every two hours — even on cloudy days — and to reapply sunscreen after swimming or perspiring,” she says.
  • Prevention is the best protection. When purchasing sunscreen, look for mineral-based sunscreens, with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. These are safe and effective, even for kids with sensitive skin. Also, parents should dress their children in protective clothing — including sunglasses that have 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection — and hats. Long sleeves and light-weight pants are great options, preferably of tightly woven fabric. Sun lovers or those with a genetic risk for melanoma can also purchase laundry aids that wash UV protection right into their clothing.

Click to learn more about the work of Latanya Benjamin, MD.


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