The Tragic Side of Sun Exposure

Cynthia Bailey, MD|July 11, 2016

Can summer childhood sun exposure really be that bad?

The answer is YES!  The tragic death of a beautiful teenage girl in England motivated her grieving mother to caution other parents to sun-protect their kids everyday, even when the sun doesn't seem that bad.

A lovely young teen died at the age of 18 from deadly melanoma.  Her mom was very careful to see that her daughter was sun-protected during sunny vacations, yet the family was not as concerned about incidental summer sun exposure back home in Britain.  Freja’s mother said that her daughter spent summers outside in the warm British sun, doing what kids do.  She feels it is this short lifetime of summer sun that lead to her daughter’s development of melanoma.

Melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer.  The sun exposure your kids get as children causes DNA damage that usually lays in waiting for 25 years or more before it leads to cancer – but not always.  Medical science doesn't know everything about melanoma but we do know that childhood sun exposure significantly increases the risk of developing this horrible cancer.

Sun protect your kids this summer.  See my infographic for the best way to protect your precious family – and yourself.

First and foremost, use sun protective clothing to cover as much skin as you can.  Don’t depend on a tee shirt with it’s UPF 5, that’s not enough.  Buy proper sun protective clothing.  I trust Coolibar and recommend patients purchase clothing from them.  An alternative to that is to wash Sunguard into some of your kids favorite clothing and let that be their summer wardrobe.  After you get the kids dressed, ASK, what else do they need to be safe in the summer sun?

A: APPLY sunscreen to all exposed skin

S: SEEK shade

K: KNOW that all sun is bad – sun up to sun down – so they need protection

Apply sunscreen to all uncovered/exposed skin.  Use only SPF 30+ broad spectrum zinc oxide sunscreen.  Reapply it if they are outdoors for more than 2 hours or are in water or rubbing the sunscreen off their skin during play.  Great sunscreen options for the family include:

 

 

Suntegrity Baby

 

 

 

 

Sheer Strength Pure Mineral Spray (spray into your hands then apply to your skin)

 

Solbar Zinc 

 

Solbar Zinc (my kids grew up wearing this product)

 

 

Seek and create shade with hats, umbrellas, shade structures or being in shady places instead of direct sun.  Sun will bounce into your shade so you still need clothing and sunscreen in shade.

Know that the minute the sun is out it’s dangerous.  This is true all over the world, even in Britain where Freja lived.  Know that any tan on your kids' skin means DNA has been damaged.  Sunburn means more DNA has been damaged.  Tan and sunburn also tell you that your sun-protection strategy is not working and that you need to modify it.

Freja was a beautiful young girl.  She did not take known risks and yet melanoma struck.  Simple summer sun can be bad enough to increase the risk of melanoma.  Her mom wants you to know that.  Protect your family.  Click here to read more about Freja’s story. 

What are you and your family doing this summer to protect yourselves from dangerous sun-exposure?  Tell us about your strategies by joining the conversation. You'll also receive early access to store promotions!
    

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