Playing and spending time outdoors is a really important part of childhood, but it is crucial that children are protected and safe while having fun in the sun.
Childhood: a critical time
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Ireland with over 11,000 cases diagnosed each year and the number of cases is projected to more than double by 2045. Do you know that sun damage is cumulative? It all adds up over your lifetime!
Compared with adults, a child’s skin is much more vulnerable to the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Childhood is a ‘critical period’ during which skin cancer risk can be increased in later life. Research has indicated that having ‘ever’ experienced a sunburn in childhood, nearly doubles the risk of melanoma of the skin in adulthood.
UV radiation: a class one carcinogen
Would you let your 7-year-old child smoke? The answer is absolutely NOT! So, why would you let your 7-year-old child get sunburnt?
UV radiation omitted from the sun is classified by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a class 1 carcinogen (promotes the formation of cancer). Cigarettes and tobacco are in the same class as UV radiation (i.e. a class 1 carcinogen).
We protect children from cigarette smoke and its harmful effects, so why do we not give them the same protection against the overexposure to UV radiation from the sun?
We know that cigarettes increase the risk of lung cancer, but it is important to remember that accumulation of UV radiation can lead to skin cancers in later life. Sharp, short bursts of intense ultraviolet exposure in childhood, and severe sunburn, are strongly linked with melanoma.
Prevention is key
The good news is, in most cases, skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
For your children’s sake, remember preventing overexposure to UV radiation and sunburn in childhood reduces the risk of sun damage, and skin cancer in later life. Prevention is easier than treatment of skin cancer in the future, so the biggest favour that you can do for your children now, is to protect them while playing outdoors in the sun.
- Set an example for your children. Wear your broad spectrum (protects against UVA & UVB) sunscreen, hat and glasses.
- Encourage children to put on their sunscreen at the same time, along with their hat and glasses.
- Do not set the example of stripping off in the sun…No sunbathing or sun burning! Tanned skin is damaged skin!
- Use tight weave clothes that do not allow sunlight through as protection.
- When choosing a play area for the children, pick a shaded area, and still use other forms of sun protection to shield from reflected UV radiation, from surfaces such as concrete or sand.
- Do not put the paddling pool or the sand pit in the sunniest part of the garden.
Teach children the 5 S’s of sun safety!
Your children will appreciate it in years to come!!
Next piece: Protect your family while out in the sunshine!
We want everyone in Ireland to learn to Protect & Inspect their skin! Read our short guide, written with hospital-based dermatologists, to checking your skin.