Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs in melanocytes, the cells which give our skin its colour. There is increasing evidence that excessive sun exposure and sunburn in children under 15 is a major risk factor for skin cancer in later life. It is therefore essential to protect the skin of both adults and children in the UK, particularly during periods of sunny weather in Spring & Summer.
As a result of this, the Melanoma Fund created the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code, a powerful initiative designed for outdoor activity leaders that aims to raise awareness of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. It provides a code of practice, template policies and downloadable resources to activity leaders and parents to ensure children escape the dangers of sunburn.
Although it seems like a simple practice, there are many misconceptions surrounding sun protection. We have put some typical comments around the subject to melanoma expert Julia Newton-Bishop, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Leeds, for her opinion:
“My child never burns so I do not use sunscreen on him/her.”
Some skin types are especially susceptible to burning, such as those with red hair or fair skin. The balance between sun protection and sun exposure differs between children according to their skin type, where in the world they are & what the weather is like. The key is ‘get to know your skin’.
“The sun in the UK is not the same strength as abroad, so we do not really need sunscreen.”
As many people will testify, sunburn doesn’t just happen on holiday. Although sunscreen manufacturers typically advertise their products for use on a beach or by a pool, we need the same protection whilst playing sport or gardening if the sun is out in the UK.
“The sun in the UK rarely shines so surely we need waterproofs more than sunscreen!”
Although the UK is not a hot country, the UV Index in summer is often in the range that causes sunburn, particularly around the middle of the day. Protection such as clothing, hats, shade and sunscreen is recommended for children with vulnerable skin, at a UV Index of 3 or more.
“I can’t be responsible for my child’s sun protection when they are out of my sight.”
When it comes to sun protection, I recommend an overlapping of responsibility. Ensure everyone understands the reasons why sun protection is important and encourage accreditation with the Outdoor Kids Sun Safety Code, offering support for all.
The Melanoma Fund, is launching a short film on the 11th April which will highlight common pitfalls of sun protection. Says Michelle Baker, CEO of the charity;
“We all understand the importance of sun protection; however, it is easy for it to become just another task in a busy schedule. Our video will provide five simple rules for outdoor activity, which can be easily practiced”:
PREPARE Ensure that everyone arrives ready for a day in the sun, and your child understands the importance of avoiding sunburn
PROTECT Clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen (SPF30+)
SHADE Avoid direct sunlight during lunch or whilst spectating others
HYDRATE Ensure water is always available
LEAD BY EXAMPLE Inspire children with your own actions
For further information visit www.oksunsafetycode.com
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