Children: A target group for skin cancer prevention

There is strong evidence showing that excessive exposure to UV radiation during childhood and adolescence is a risk factor for developing skin cancer later in life. It is also known that superficial skin cancers (basal and squamous cell) result from total life-time ultraviolet (UV) exposure and up to 80% exposure is commonly received during childhood. 

It is estimated that the majority of a person’s lifetime UV exposure occurs during childhood. Episodes of sunburn, particularly in childhood and adolescence, also increase the risk of melanoma.

Children therefore represent an at risk group. Limiting UV exposure during school years could reduce incidence of these cancers in later life. 

Given the strength of evidence linking melanoma to sunburn during childhood and adolescence, various international and national health agencies advise that effective sun protection needs to begin early in life. 

Is sun protection necessary for all children? 

While fair skinned children are most at risk from the harmful effects of UV radiation on the skin, children with darker skin are also at risk of skin damage. UV radiation also has a harmful effect on the eyes increasing the risk of eye damage and cataracts in both fair and darker skinned children. 

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