Teens can be very foolish when it comes to the sun. I should know. I was one of them. When I was that age, I had a bad case of acne, which showed up on my back. I was very self-conscious in the summer so I thought I could help my treatment by getting a sunburn, hoping to fry the pimples off. So during an excursion to the beach, I lay face down for too long and got a bad sunburn and a case of sun poisoning complete with fever and chills. This is exactly what to do to get skin cancer. I have been fortunate. But I do check myself in the mirror regularly

When I grew up I started learning more. An education in skin cancer was gained in nursing school. As a school nurse with preschoolers, I knew that the youngest children were especially sensitive to the sun's rays.

Melanoma Facts

According to WebMD melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increased 2% per year from 1973 to 2009 in children ages newborn to 19. Melanoma now makes up 3% of all children's cancers. The great majority of victims are white. Children with fair skin, light hair and eyes, multiple moles, or a family history of melanoma are at greater risk. But don't assume you are safe if you have a darker complexion, although your chances of getting it are much lower. And very importantly, a history of severe sunburns can add to the chances

At particularly high risk are girls between 15 and 17 years old. Melanomas likely will appear on their lower legs and hips, while boys tend to get it on their trunks and faces. Many teen girls also like to visit tanning booths. According to Kids Health, teens who are steady patrons of these businesses have an eight-fold elevated risk of melanoma, due to the concentrated power of the ultraviolet rays.

Recreational exposure is the most dangerous. Children on vacation at the beach or playing in a park for a long period raises the risk more than everyday activities. Bad, blistering sunburns set the stage for skin cancer.

Melanoma can be cured if it is caught early while on the skin surface. It is more difficult to stop if it grows below the surface into the lower tissues, the bloodstream and lymphatic system. It is frequently fatal.

Prevention Tips for Parents

Prevention must include education. Parents have to thoroughly teach their children who are old enough to understand about the dangers of too much sun exposure. Teach them about the consequences of skin cancer and the dangers of tanning booths.

Parents must also know:

  • Infants under the age of 6 months should be kept out of the sun completely. The skin at this age is extremely sensitive..
  • Kids older than 6 months should wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15 when outdoors. With younger children, try to make a game out of lotion application.
  • Kids should avoid the sun between 10am to 4pm.
  • Have them wear loose clothing with long sleeves and pants, especially if they are sensitive to the sun. A wide-brimmed hat can protect the face.
  • Be a good role model.

Be sure you and your child know where all his or her moles are located. Regularly have the child check them, and help if necessary. The mole may itch or bleed. Remind him or her to tell you right away if they notice any changes. I made it a point to remind the teachers in my school to encourage the kids to play in the shady areas. On very hot and sunny days, playtime outside was limited.  Appropriate clothing was worn, covering most of the skin.  And they were very good about putting a little lotion on the exposed areas.


Children over 6 months should be covered in at least SPF 15 sunscreen outdoors.
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