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Keep kids sun-safe this summer

SAN DIEGO – Without proper sun protection, fun summer activities can lead to painful sunburns, premature skin aging and skin cancer. Just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.

Children with fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue or green eyes are at the highest risk of sunburn. But darker-skinned children also need sun protection.

“Fewer than one-third of children between the ages of 8 and 11 wear sunscreen,” said Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “Parents need to teach children from an early age how to be sun-safe and reduce their risk of skin cancer.”

Parents should teach their children to use sunscreen daily. An SPF 15+ sunscreen (water resistant formulas are especially good) should be used regularly. One ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas 30 minutes before going outside.

It should be reapplied every two hours and right after swimming or sweating heavily.

Children should be reminded to cover those easy-to-miss spots, such as the back of ears and neck, as well as the tops of feet and hands. If parents suspect their children are not using enough sunscreen, or not reapplying often enough, an SPF 30 sunscreen should be used instead.

If possible, outdoor activities should be scheduled in the early morning or late afternoon as ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Parents can also make sure that children cover up with sun-protective clothing including long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Denim clothing is especially protective. They should wear t-shirts with a dense weave in dark or bright colors. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is the best choice for head and neck protection, but any kind of hat or cap is better than not wearing one at all. They can also wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect their eyes and the sensitive skin that surrounds them.

With proper guidance, children can learn to protect themselves and enjoy summer fun without sacrificing the health of their skin.

The mission of the Skin Cancer Foundation is to decrease the incidence of skin cancer through public and professional education and research. For more information, visit


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