Megan Keenan doesn’t dress her kids in hats and sunglasses because it’s stylish. She is creating good skin care habits for her children.
Megan Keenan doesn’t dress her kids in hats and sunglasses because it’s stylish. She is creating good skin care habits for her children, Audrey, 5, and Wyatt, 2. “The kids never go outside without 50 SPF sunblock,” she said. “And I only use moisturizer and makeup with SPF, as well as sunscreen whenever I’m out in the sun.” Because she is fair-skinned and freckled, Keenan knows she may be at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. She started protecting her skin early, after her mother had several cancerous areas removed from her skin over the years.
“Melanin is a pigment in skin that helps protect against UV radiation. People with fair skin have less melanin, so they are more likely to freckle and burn. This puts them at higher risk for skin cancer than darker-skinned individuals,” said Deborah Ballard, M.D., oncology. “Those with many moles or a family history of skin cancer also are at a greater risk and should talk to their doctor about regular skin cancer screenings.”
“I get a yearly checkup with my dermatologist,” Keenan said. “I want to take every precaution I can because our family spends a lot of time outdoors, and our children especially love going to their grandparents’ house to swim.”
It’s also important to do regular exams on yourself and your kids. Note the size and shape of moles, and see a doctor if you notice any changes. “Studies show children who use sunscreen develop fewer moles, which means it could decrease the risk of melanoma later in life,” Dr. Ballard said. “Also, a history of five or more severe sunburns before adolescence more than doubles the risk of developing melanoma as an adult.”
Balancing an active life with avoiding the sun’s harmful rays may sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The American Cancer Society suggests this catch phrase to learn and teach to children: “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!” – Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on sunglasses.
“A hat with a 2- to 3-inch brim is best because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp,” Dr. Ballard said. “Use sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30 or higher, and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days, and put it on about 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside.