Keep Our Families SafeStaying Safe in the Sun
More than 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. While the sun helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones, sun exposure without the proper protection can lead not only to skin damage and skin cancer, but also to eye damage and immune system suppression.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), about 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. Skin cancer occurs more frequently in older people, but this type of cancer also occurs in children and young adults.
Older adults have accumulated sun exposure over a lifetime, with their sun exposure starting when they were small children. Each year they received another round of exposure, which may have included a few bad sunburns. According to the AAP, the risk of developing skin cancer later in life increases if you had two or more blistering sunburns as a child or teen. Most of our sun exposure -- 60 to 80 percent -- happens before we turn 18.
Kids tend to spend more time outdoors, especially once the weather warms. Children six months old and younger are the most sensitive to sun. Their skin is more susceptible to sunburn because it is thinner than adult skin. Even children with darker pigmented skin need to take precautions to prevent burns.
To help protect baby skin, the AAP recommends the caregivers:
- Keep babies out of direct sunlight. Choose shady spots under trees and umbrellas.
- Use a stroller canopy and baby hats with brims that shade the face and cover ears.
- Dress babies in clothing that covers the body, such as comfortable lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
- Contact a pediatrician immediately if baby gets a sunburn and is under 1 year old.Discuss sunscreen use with pediatrician, as risks or benefits of sunscreen use in babies younger than 6 months is unknown.
For children older than 6 months, the AAP recommends sunscreen made for children. While these sunscreens have ingredients that help block the harmful rays of the sun, some products also contain ingredients that could pose health risks.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization, investigated thousands of personal health care products, including children’s sunscreens, and found “major gaps in the regulatory safety net for these products.” The EWG’s study (http://www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep) revealed that some of the ingredients found in children’s sunscreens contain chemicals that are known or possible health risks.
Preservatives called parabens were found in 10 formulations of children’s sunblock. Parabens can mimic estrogen in the body and may negatively affect the body’s hormone system. According to the EWG, the potential risks related to estrogen-like chemicals include breast cancer, fertility problems, and altered pregnancy outcomes, though not in studies of humans. While the cosmetic industry reports that parabens are metabolized and excreted by the body, other research suggests that parabens can accumulate in the body.
The EWG assessed the ingredient labels of 7,500 beauty products, including sunscreens, and identified parabens in 57 percent of them. Ten of those products with parabens were children’s sunscreens. EWG also analyzed ingredients by “areas of health concern,” ranging from cancer to harmful impurities, and scored products from 0 to 10 (with 10 being the highest health concern). EWG lists on its website children’s sunscreens that contain parabens and other ingredients which may be health risks:
For more information on the sunscreens, go to: http://www.ewg.org/