Better weather means not only that you are likely to spend more time outdoors, but also raises the chances of overexposure to ultra-violet (UV) rays. We spend far more time outdoors as children, teenagers and young adults - especially during the long summer holidays. Not many adults spend hours or weeks on end in the sun unless they work outside. We get around 80 per cent of our sun exposure by time we reach the age of 21.
The risk of skin cancer
We all know that our children’s skin is delicate and prone to damage from the sun's rays, but there is more to it than that. The way we treat our skin in the first 21 years is crucial. If we spend this time in
the sun, constantly trying to get a tan - or worse still getting sunburnt - then we significantly increase our risk of developing skin cancer.
Thankfully skin cancer is rare in children. However, many skin cancers take years to develop. Damage to the DNA of our skin cells when young, may develop into skin cancer 30 years on! The most serious type of skin cancer - melanoma - is the third most common cancer in 15 to 39 year olds.
Experts agree that reducing the amount of sun we have as children and teenagers has a far greater impact on melanoma risk than a reduction as adults.
What can we do to ensure the correct levels of protection for our children?
- Using a high protection sun screen or lotion in combination with a sun protection outfit will help protect exposed skin not covered by swimwear – particularly the tops of ears and noses.
- Make sure you reapply lotions. The bottle will usually have instructions, follow them!
- As a practical alternative specialist UV protection swimwear helps by providing safe and easy to manage sun protection for parents and children. Originating in Australia, these swimwear products are now readily available in Europe and are specifically designed to block over 95% of the sun’s harmful rays.
- Use hats/caps to protect the head and face.
- Limit exposure to the sun at the first sign of redness, soreness or tightening of skin before getting burnt.
- A simple ‘rule of thumb’ is the shadow rule - if your shadow is longer than you are, then you’re safer from the sun! Limited exposure by avoiding the hottest part of the day when the sun is strongest is a straightforward way of reducing risk.