Skin Cancer Prevention Through the Years

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. Many people already know that sunscreen helps prevent UV radiation from damaging your skin and reduces your risk for skin cancer. But do you know what age you should start applying it? Here’s what you need to know to ensure sun protection throughout life.

Start Sun Protection Early

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently released new skin cancer prevention recommendations. Their update mentions that health care providers should educate parents of fair-skinned children about ways to prevent skin cancer—starting when the child is 6 months old. This is a vast change from their previous recommendations, which suggested this same conversation happen once the child is 10 years old.

It’s OK to use sunscreen on infants older than 6 months. For babies younger than 6 months old though, try to keep them out of the sun.

Educate Children and Adolescents

When kids are exposed to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence, they have an increased risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood. This is especially true for those who experienced intense sunburns. Research shows though that when children learn about protecting their skin, they’re more likely to practice sun safety. Here are some tips they should learn now and carry with them throughout life:

  • Peak UV hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During this time, avoid direct sunlight by finding shade or going inside.
  • Select sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher. It should be broad-spectrum and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Thirty minutes before you go outside, apply sunscreen. Reapply every two hours or after sweating excessively or swimming.
  • In addition to sunscreen, use UV-blocking sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, and a broad-brimmed hat when you’re outside.
  • Avoid tanning beds.

Schedule Regular Skin Exams

It’s important to recognize if you, or your children, have a higher risk for skin cancer than others. Talk with a doctor about how frequently you should get your skin checked if you or a loved one:

  • Use tanning beds
  • Have a lot of moles
  • Get freckles easily when exposed to the sun
  • Sunburn easily
  • Have a naturally light skin tone
  • Have blue or green eyes
  • Have blond or red hair
  • Have a family or personal history of skin cancer