NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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Make Skin Protection a Family Priority

skin protection, melanoma, skin cancer, sunscreen, cancer risk factors

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Today’s research shows children have an increased risk of melanoma and skin cancer later in life if they have sunburns during childhood. Protect your skin from the sun during childhood and adolescence to reduce the risk of cancer later in life.

This doesn’t mean adults are out of luck.  Adults still benefit from protecting their skin now. Remember to: SLIP, SLAP, SLOP, and WRAP with your family.

SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, and WRAP on sunglasses. Choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and try to find a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Limit time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. Also remember that children younger than six months of age should be protected with clothing and kept in the shade.

Teach your children the shadow rule. When your shadow is shorter than you are the sun is high in the sky and its UV rays are at their strongest. Cover-up and seek some shade.

Just one severe sunburn doubles your risk of developing skin cancer. That is why it’s so important to cover up in the sun. Hats, shirts, sunglasses and sunscreen are a must in the sun. Be sure to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours. You also need to reapply your sunscreen after sweating, getting wet or towel drying.

Sunscreen is available in lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wipes, lip balms and even some make-ups, making it easy to find one that is right for you. Even when thickly applying a SPF 30 sunscreen you still get the equivalent of one minute without protection for every 30 minutes in the sun. Remember to always read the label and be generous in applying your sunscreen.

While everyone is at risk for skin cancer, some people are at a higher risk. Factors that put you at a higher risk include:

  • Previous history of skin cancer
  • Family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
  • Lots of moles, irregular moles or large moles
  • Freckles and burn before tanning
  • Fair skin, blue or green eyes, blonde, red or light brown hair
  • Tanning bed use
  • Not using sunscreen

Give yourself all the advantages you can and protect your skin. Protect your skin during all seasons. The sun’s rays reflect off snow, sand, water, ice and pavement. They can also go through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds. Remember to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. Lead by example, children will build safe sun habits when they see adults protecting their own skin.

Visit www.skincancer.org for more information.

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