It may not always be the sunniest here in Washington, but that doesn’t mean we’re safe from sun exposure and skin cancer risks. In fact, Washington had the 10th highest rate of skin cancer in 2013 (we beat out sunny states including Florida, California and Arizona). Part of that has to do with the population that lives here (non-Hispanic Caucasians have higher rates of skin cancer) but in general it’s a reminder that sun exposure and UV radiation can happen in even this horrific, rainy climate!
Childhood can be a time of potent sun exposure. The majority of sun exposure and sunburns occur during childhood and teen years. Because UV sun exposure and UV light is the #1 preventable cause of skin cancer, as you reduce the amount of exposure for your children you reduce the risk of them being diagnosed with skin cancer later in life.
When it comes to sun exposure and UV light, there are two types you need to know about:
- UVA radiation causes Aging, deeper skin damage and wrinkles skin. It is constant throughout the entire year, regardless of the season or heat index. That’s why sunscreen while out in the snow in the winter makes sense!
- UVB radiation causes Burning and is what SPF helps protect you from when using sunscreen. It is most intense in the summer in North America as the earth’s rotation and angle increases sunlight intensity.
In the quick podcast below, you can get smarter about the sun and how you consume it.
Indoor Tanning is Still a Problem
- US high school student indoor tanning decreased from 15.6% in 2009 to 7.3% in 2015. Improvements have come about because many states ban indoor tanning for teens but ongoing exposure to tanning beds only damages teen skin and puts them at risk. Spray tans are a safer alternative.
- There is strong evidence of the correlation between indoor tanning practices and increased incidences of non-melanoma skin cancer and malignant melanoma (the most invasive, dangerous skin cancer).
- The risk of skin cancer is highest among individuals who had indoor tanning exposure at an early age. Teen tanning therefore clearly isn’t recommended EVER nor is it ideal under any circumstance.
Sun Protection Among Teens is Low
- 75% of those who indoor tan have experienced at least one sunburn – sunburns, especially in the teen years, are strong predictors of skin cancer.
- Separate from indoor tanning, approximately one-third of U.S. 14 to 17 years old reported having a sunburn during the past year.
- Teens and young adults also have the thought that obtaining a baseline tan before a vacation will reduce the risk of sunburn. Not true. “Pre-tanning” actually increases the likelihood of developing sunburns and puts us at higher risk of getting skin cancer because we double the exposure to harmful UV rays and often wear less sunscreen when in a sunnier climate if we browned our skin prior.
Protect Your Children From Sun UV Rays:
You can help decrease aging of your kid’s skin and the development of potential skin cancer by reducing their exposure to sun whenever you can during their childhood. Reducing the risk
- No need for sunlight for Vita D: you can eat the vitamin D you need so no need for only sunshine as a source. Vitamin D supplements are better for them than sun exposure. Your child should take oral vitamin D supplements (400-600 IU daily is recommended for babies and children).
- Shade: Shade is their best friend when it comes to skin protection. The best way to fight off excess sun exposure and decrease the likelihood of getting skin cancer is to stay out of the sun. This is especially true for the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest and therefore most harmful.
- Broadband Sunscreen use on exposed skin: Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF over 30. Most sunscreens are broad spectrum which means it covers UVA and UVB rays.
- Be smart about spray sunscreens – never spray directly onto their face, always spray outside/in well-ventilated areas, have them hold their breath when spraying, avoid sprays on kids with underlying lung problems and never spray near an open flame.
- Physical sunscreen as an alternative to chemical ingredients: if you’re looking to avoid chemical ingredients in sunscreen that can be absorbed, look for sunscreens that include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These ingredients create physical barriers to UV rays and don’t allow for absorption into the skin.
- Apply, apply, apply! Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to being in the sun and every 1-2 hours while in the water or high activity, unless otherwise specified on the sunscreens container.
- Send your children to school with sunscreen (if allowed). Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently categorizes sunscreen as a drug product, many parents can put sunscreen on prior to the school day. The good news for Washington is that we have a new proposed bill that will allow students to bring and use sunscreen at school without permission. Hopefully, SUCCESS!
- JAMA – Prevalence of Indoor Tanning and Association With Sunburn Among Youth in the United States
- JAMA – Sun Safety Practices Among Schools in the United States
- AAP – Teens and Sun: Keeping Them Safe Without Ruining Their Fun
- AAP – Sun, Heat, Water Safety Tips
- Parent Magazine – Sun Smarts: Protect Your Family From The Sun
Hi there! What sunscreen brands/protection do you recommend?
Please, fix the line about the earth being closer to the sun in summer. Anyone who thinks about when summer is in Australia knows that can’t be true.
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
will do — angle of the sun is I suppose what I meant. Sheepishly looking now….
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Better, I hope (my 10 year-old would be disappointed in me).