At long last, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has taken a strong stand on sun protection for children. Pediatricians are now required to provide education on sunscreen and sun protection during annual pediatric visits and routine checkups, making this counseling equally as important as vaccinations! Please forward this information along to everyone you know in order to protect your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and any other important children in your life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued guidelines in March 2011 on limiting sun exposure in children and supporting legislation to prohibit salon tanning by minors in a policy statement entitled “Ultraviolet Radiation: A Hazard to Children and Adolescents.”
Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) causes the 3 major forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma; squamous cell carcinoma; and cutaneous malignant melanoma. The risk of skin cancer increases when people overexpose themselves to sun and intentionally expose themselves to artificial sources of UVR. UVR consists of both UVA & UVB rays.
Despite these risks, sunburn continues to be prevalent, and teenagers as well as adults continue to make frequent visits to tanning parlors.
Synopsis of “Ultraviolet Radiation: A Hazard to Children and Adolescents”
Guidelines on Limiting Sun Exposure in Children:
Infants younger than 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight, if at all possible. Products from sunscreen may be absorbed into the skin of infants, particularly if these infants have a history of preterm delivery, so this method of UVR protection is not ideal in this age group.
Older children should focus on avoiding sun burning and sun tanning, wearing appropriate protective clothing and hats with brims, and applying sunscreen.
Clothing can be very protective against UVR, but not all clothing is created equal in this regard. Wool and synthetic materials, thickly woven fabrics, and darker colors are more protective against UVR than other types of clothing. Similarly, although avoiding direct sunlight is a critical means to reduce UVR exposure, light can be scattered and reflected into shady areas. Therefore, a fair-skinned person may believe that he or she is safe from UVR while sitting under a tree, but this individual may still experience sunburn within 1 hour.
Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied every 2 hours during sun exposure and reapplied after swimming, sweating, or drying off with a towel. Parents might want to avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, as there is some concern that it may have weak estrogenic effects when absorbed through the skin.
Outdoor activities are encouraged to promote a healthy body weight and socialization. However, children should limit exposure to peak-intensity midday sun, which is generally between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Sunglasses, which offer UVR protection, should be worn when children are doing anything in the sun.
Children and adolescents who use medications or agents that predispose them to sunburn should particularly avoid sun and UVA radiation exposure.
Sunlight is important for vitamin D metabolism and, consequently, healthy bone development and growth. Children and adolescents should receive at least 400 IU of vitamin D daily, and children at risk for hypovitaminosis D should be examined for serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D.
Avoid deliberate UVR exposure to increase vitamin D concentrations. Vitamin supplements and diet may be used to achieve this effect.
“Skin cancer is a major public health problem; more than 2 million new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year,” writes Dr. Balk and coauthors of the accompanying technical report. “Approximately 25% of sun exposure occurs before 18 years of age. The risk of skin cancer is increased when people overexpose themselves to sun and intentionally expose themselves to artificial sources of UVR.”
The FDA recently released new SPF guidelines designed to help consumers make healthy choices in protecting their skin from ultraviolet-induced damage. The changes will impact sunscreen formulation and labeling and will be on sunscreen packaging starting in June 2012. In order to be labeled “Broad Spectrum,” sunscreen formulas must now pass a standard test to confirm the formula provides protection against both UVB and UVA. The new regulation re-affirms the importance of protecting against both forms of UV radiation. Sunscreens labeled “Broad Spectrum” with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 and higher will now have a new message on their packaging that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, in addition to preventing sunburn, if used as directed. Please note, however, that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends both adults and children use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Sunscreens not labeled “Broad Spectrum,” or those with SPF between 2 and 14, can only claim they prevent sunburn. These products must now include a warning on the package that the product does not help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. “Water resistant” claims on sunscreen packaging will now tell how much time a user can expect to be protected by the sunscreen while swimming or sweating, based on a standard test — either 40 minutes or 80 minutes. Sunscreens will no longer use the terms “waterproof” or“sweatproof” or identify products as “sunblocks.” This change is to prevent consumers from being overconfident in their sunscreen products and follow directions to apply enough sunscreen and re-apply at regular intervals. The FDA has also proposed that sunscreen labeling provide a four-star rating system that informs consumers how well the product protects them against UVA light. According to Dr. Moy, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, “We are encouraged that there are now simple, consistent labeling requirements.”