With the alarming numbers of skin cancers
being diagnosed around the world, it is increasingly
evident that people of all colors need protection from
Protection should begin as soon as
a baby is born and continue throughout life. This is
particularly important for people who have fair skin
and light eyes. Babies should be kept out of direct
sun light and should wear sun protective clothing, including
hats and sunglasses. While most sunscreen can be used on
infants, it is better to only use a sunblock with zinc and/or titanium dioxide. Apply the sunblock only on exposed skin
such as hands and face and only when exposure is unavoidable.
As a child grows, UV protection habits
should become as routine as brushing teeth. For most
children, 23 percent of their lifetime exposure will
happen before the age of 18. While 23 percent is not
as much as the widely quoted figure of 80 percent (now
shown to be a misinterpretation), the damage is significant
and can be compounded by subsequent exposure. Children
should routinely wear sun protective clothing that covers
their arms and legs. They should learn to apply sunscreen
every morning to exposed skin, such as hands and face,
before going outside and to reapply every two hours
while outside. They should wear a sun protective hat
with a 3-inch brim, and sunglasses. These are habits
that should be established early.
Adolescents can be more difficult to
convince to use sun protection, but it is equally important
that they do. They should use the same methods described
above, and they should begin to check their skin for
changes. While skin cancers are still unusual in teenagers,
more and more are being diagnosed. UV protection should
be encouraged. Do not allow your teenagers to use tanning
beds. Self-tanning lotions or spray-on tans at a salon may help a teen who wants a little color to achieve that safely.
Adults should use UV protection daily.
Skin cancers can be triggered at any time, and damaged
skin from childhood exposure may be more vulnerable.
Further, some damage can be reversed by using sun protection.
Adults should routinely check their skin.
Outdoor workers and baby boomers are
at high risk for skin cancer. Outdoor workers should
always use UV protection and check their skin. They
should also talk to their employers about strategies
for sun protection. Baby boomers and seniors should use sun protection
and check their skin regularly as skin cancer is more likely to occur in older age groups.