One Blistering Sunburn During Childhood Doubles the Risk of Melanoma

For kids and teens, a single sunburn may lead to life-threatening consequences later in life.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reported that experiencing just one blister-producing sunburn as a youth can more than double the risk of developing the deadly skin cancer melanoma in adulthood, reported the Huffington Post. For people in all stages of life, suffering from five or more sunburns doubles the risk of melanoma.

The news findings provide even more reason to take precaution to avoid overexposure to the sun. According to the Foundation, more than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States.

Parents should heed warning and protect their kids: childhood is the most vulnerable time for sun damage. By age 18, a person soaks up as much as 80 percent of the ultraviolet rays they will face in their lifetime.

Due to the thinning of the ozone layer, increasing everyone’s susceptibility to solar radiation, wearing sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure at peak daylight hours is of the utmost importance, reported The New York Times.

It is not only light-skinned people who face the risk of skin cancer. “Melanomas can also develop in people with very dark skin; while it may not burn as easily, darker skin is rich in the pigmented cells in which these cancers arise,” the Times emphasizes.

“The risk of skin cancer is very real,” Federal Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said in a recent statement in support of the government’s first annual “Don’t Fry Day” on May 25, the Friday before Memorial Day. “The FDA strongly recommends that consumers regularly use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher in combination with other protective measures to more effectively protect themselves and their families whenever they are in the sun.”

Several new educational programs could enhance the sun protection practices of children, Mr. Geller, a lecturer on health at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Times. He recommended SunWise, created by the Environmental Protection Agency, which features an instructional “toolbox” of materials that can help teachers incorporate sun protection messages into various subject areas—from math to social studies to physical education. Pool Cool, developed by Karen Glanz, professor of epidemiology and nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, helps lifeguards and parents at swimming pools teach young kids about the use of sunscreen, shirts and hats to reduce sun exposure. In Australia, a country once known for its epidemic rates of skin cancer, a “no hat, no play” policy in schools has resulted in a significant decline in melanoma cases.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) assures those who already spent their youths basking in the sun that skin cancer is treatable when caught early.

In honor of July being UV (Ultraviolet Radiation) Safety Month, the ACS released these tips to limit sun exposure— “Slip, Slap, Slop & Wrap”:

  • Slip on a shirt. The sun’s rays are strongest between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., so protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays by covering up. Stay in the shade or try an umbrella if you will be out during the middle of the day, even if it’s cloudy.
  • Slop on sunscreen. The American Cancer Society recommends applying SPF 15 or higher at least every two hours. Labels should indicate that the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Available in lotion, gel, spray, and lip balm, be sure to pack some for your next trip to the park. Don’t forget to cover your feet!
  • Slap on a hat. Hats that cover the ears, neck, and forehead prevent burns and long-term skin damage. Even if the unprotected skin doesn’t turn red, it will still be damaged by the sun.
  • Wrap on sunglasses. Did you know that the sun’s UV rays can also be harmful to your eyes? Not only can they damage the sensitive skin around your eyes, the American Cancer Society says that your eyes are at risk for disease as well. Stop squinting and stay covered with protective lenses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.