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Melissa Arca

Melissa Arca: The heat is on, so slather on the sunscreen

Published: Thursday, Jul. 18, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3D

I'm revisiting an article I wrote in April about the importance of sunscreen and sun protection for children. It's so timely now, in the heat of summer.

Just keep in mind these sun-safe tips and the importance of wearing and re- applying sunscreen daily.

Melanoma in kids is on the rise. While still relatively rare, this deadly skin cancer has been steadily increasing each year, according to a new long-term study released in the Journal of Pediatrics. Among childhood cases, 75 percent of them occur in adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19.

Increased and unprotected exposure to UV rays both from the sun and indoor tanning booths increase the risk of melanoma along with other untoward effects of chronic sun exposure such as photo aging and sunburns. In fact, just one blistering sunburn during childhood can more than double your child's risk of developing melanoma later in life.

Sun damage is additive and with up to 80 percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure occurring during childhood, protecting our children from damaging UV rays is essential.

So brush up on these do's and don'ts of sun protection for your children.

• Do educate your kids and caregivers of the importance of sun protection.

• Don't allow your child to use tanning booths. Indoor tanning carries the same UV risk as being exposed to outdoor UV rays from the sun. There is no safe way to tan.

• Do avoid being in the sun during peak UV hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Don't assume that your child is protected on cloudy days. Clouds do not protect against damaging UV rays.

• Do use a sunscreen that has both UVA and UVB protection. Look for "broad spectrum" and an SPF of at least 15 (I recommend SPF of at least 30 for days spent in the sun). While 95 percent of UV rays reaching the earth are UVA, the other 5 percent from UVB rays are responsible for the development of most skin cancers.

You and your children need protection from both.

• Do reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, no matter what. Higher SPF does not mean you can stay out in the sun longer without reapplying. SPF refers to the ability to protect against UVB rays. Sunscreens with SPF of 50 or greater have a negligible increase in UVB protection.

• Do insist that your children wear sun-protective clothing, hats and sunglasses in addition to sunscreens. Think of the whole sun protection package.

• Do use sunscreens that are "water-resistant" if swimming or playing in water. There are no waterproof sunscreens, and new FDA labeling guidelines require sunscreen manufacturers to use the term "water-resistant." Just remember to reapply frequently, typically every 40 to 80 minutes for this type of sunscreen and water activity.

• Do use sunscreens on infants less than 6 months old if they are out in the sun. Limit exposure by applying only to exposed areas such as the face, hands and neck. Keep them shaded as much as possible and make use of sun protective clothing and hats.

• Do keep water on hand to prevent dehydration.

Now that the weather has heated up, we're spending more time outdoors – definitely a good thing.

Get your kids out to play and just remember that the sun is fun, but your kids do need daily sun protection to prevent its potentially damaging effects.

Dr. Melissa Arca is a pediatrician and mother of two. Her blog,, is featured on The Bee's blog and community news network,

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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