As school sets into full swing, families are continually preparing their children for success by arming them with the right school supplies and educational necessities. While pencils, pens and paper are important, there’s one crucial supply that’s missing.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, and melanoma rates have risen in children in the U.S. by an average of two percent each year between 1973 and 2009. Skin cancer also accounts for six percent of all cancers in teens between 15 and 19 years of age and, because it is a largely unrecognized problem, diagnosis and treatment is delayed in 40 percent of childhood melanoma cases.
“We’ve known for many years that continued exposure to ultraviolet rays is a risk to our health,” said Robert J. Casquejo, PA-C, of the Skin and Cancer Center of Scottsdale, “and it’s most often the exposure and burns we receive as children and teens that contribute to the development of skin cancer later in life.
“Because of that, school-aged children should have sunscreen with them when they leave for school in the morning and should be allowed to apply it before spending time outside in the sun.”
According to Casquejo, teachers and parents should work together to teach children about the effects of sun damage and educate them about the importance of using sunscreen. Although the summer heat is slowing disappearing, the sun is still just as powerful. This means including sunscreen in the required supply list for students returning to school each year and helping children remember to use it each day.
“Including sunscreen as a required or even an optional school supply will go a long way in helping to raise public awareness and protect our state’s children from developing life-threatening skin cancers,” Casquejo said.
In order to protect children from harmful rays, parents should choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and UVA and UVB protection. Over-the-counter sunscreens that meet these requirements are good choices.
“It doesn’t have to be expensive to work,” Casquejo said.
Time of day also plays an important role in the development of skin cancer.
“If skin cancer statistics for the United States, specifically Arizona, aren’t frightening enough, look at the time of day that children are playing outside at school,” Casquejo said. “Typically, children will participate in outside activities during the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point and ultraviolet radiation is its most intense, causing the most skin damage.”
Ultraviolet exposure is at its peak between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the Sun Safety Alliance.
“As Arizona residents, we know just how strong the sun can be and how much damage it can do,” Casquejo said. “To help put it in perspective, the intense Arizona sun is capable of bleaching furniture and oxidizing car paint in a matter of years. Imagine what it’s doing to our skin, especially children’s skin, which is still developing.
“Parents need to be aware of skin cancer prevention so they can start helping their children take the right steps to protect themselves, and it all starts by simply putting a small bottle of sunscreen in a child’s backpack.”
Skin cancer screenings can also help detect cancers early. Casquejo advises that it’s never too early to start, especially if an unusual growth is noticed.
“Regular skin cancer screenings are absolutely necessary,” Casquejo said. “As Arizonans, we love the sun, but we shouldn’t ignore that it can be deadly.”
For more information, contact the Skin and Cancer Center of Scottsdale at (480) 569-1110 or visit http://betterskinarizona.com.