Utah has the highest melanoma (the most deadly skin cancer) rates in the United States (read detailed article here). Given our altitude, a large number of sunny days, great outdoor activities, and a population with lots of fair-skinned people, we have the perfect storm of skin cancer risk factors.
It is important that our kids spend time outside but careful preparation is a must. Below are some measures that have proven effectiveness at reducing UV exposure and helping to prevent skin cancers:
1. Sunscreen reapplication: Unfortunately, sunscreen only lasts ~80 min before the protective effects diminish significantly, so be sure to reapply frequently.
2. Hats: Because the head and neck region is not covered with clothes it receives much more sun exposure than other parts of the body, leading to a higher proportional rate of skin cancers in this region. Hats are an easy method to reduce sun exposure. Be sure to send a hat to school with your child each day as well as taking one along on all your outings that include outside play.
3. Encourage sun-safe clothing, sunglasses when appropriate.
4. Go the extra mile by being an example; wear a hat when you are outside, apply sunscreen to yourself in your child's presence, wear sun-appropriate clothing and sunglasses, and talk to your child about sun safety on a regular basis. Children, like the rest of us, are empowered by knowledge.