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from Sumer 1997 issue

Sun Sense and Summer Fun

by Brenda Reusser, Parent and Clinical Research Coordinator, Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Dermatology

Summer is well underway and for many children that means playing out of doors and attending great summer recreation programs and camps. All the more reason to slather on the sun screen and cover up with protective clothing. Scientists throughout the world are recognizing the marked increase in the frequency of malignant melanoma, the skin cancer that often is fatal. Though there is debate regarding the reasons for the increase, all agree that protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun's rays is the best method of preventing this form of cancer as well as non-melanoma skin cancers called, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.

Many of our children are dependent upon us to make this very important effort. Children with physical disabilities or vision loss may not be able to apply sun screen adequately without assistance. That is why it is important to help camp counselors and other attendants understand the significance of sun protection and the frequency of sun screen application. Provide sunscreen or sun block with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 and reapply it every hour and after rigorous activities or swimming. Only purchase sunscreens that block both types of ultra-violate light, UVA and UVB unless your pediatrician has advised you otherwise. These sun products are called "broad spectrum". If need be, have the application of sun protection added to your child's list of medications as an extra reminder while attending day programs and summer camps.

Of note is the importance of proper sun glasses, especially to kids who have vision loss. Sun glasses with darkened lenses but no UVA protection will dilate the pupil allowing more UV rays to reach the back of the eye. Because the back of the eye has pigment, it is possible to develop a malignant melanoma, or other eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration in later years. When coping with an already existing vision loss, the development of additional disease may make the difference between some functional vision and no vision at all. Always check to make sure that your child's sunglasses offer the maximum UV protection and blocks both UVB and UVA rays.

It is still considered very vogue to sport a deep tan, but remember that tanned skin is actually injured skin and the result is photo-aging (wrinkles and liver spots) or skin cancer. Take the time to teach your youngster about sun protection as part of a healthy life-style and prevent a host of sun-induced diseases in his or her adult years.

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from Sumer 1997 issue

Last Revision: July 30, 2002

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