Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sun Protection in Infants & Toddlers—The Evidence: Part One

It is widely known that sun exposure is closely linked to skin cancer in adults. What about babies and toddlers? With information being relayed to parents about the importance of sun exposure for small babies with elevated bilirubin, and for the Vitamin D required for healthy growing bones, it can be confusing. How much sun is healthy and okay? What are the true risks of sun exposure in young children?

In the next two postings on One Sassy Doctor, we’ll review the fantastic research article from the 2011 Dr. Amy Paller published in the journal Pediatrics: "New Insights About Infant and Toddler Skin: Implications for Sun Protection." There is tremendous evidence support from research linking excessive sun exposure in the baby and toddler years to skin cancer later in life. Some interesting facts:

1. With the widely known changes in the “ozone layer”, the environmental consequences mean increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR).

2. Skin cancer rates have been rising over the years with more than 3 and a half million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 60,000 new melanomas diagnosed in 2008.

3. A baby born today has a 1 in 33 risk of developing melanoma. A baby born in 1935 (a great-great grandma now!) had a risk of 1 in 1500!

4. Babies and toddlers are extra vulnerable to UVR because they have essentially thinner skin and less protective melanin. Also, there is simply a higher skin/total body mass ratio in children.

The first summer of life is the best time to establish healthy sun habits. In our next post, we’ll dive deeper into this landmark article, and then learn more about practical aspects of keeping our sassy little ones safe.