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Published on April 26, 2012

Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What Every Parent Should Know

In Brief:

  • During National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Crozer-Keystone reminds members of the community to protect their children against the harmful rays of sun that summer brings with it.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sun exposure early in life is the major contributing factor to developing skin cancer. Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life.
  • It’s important for parents to be familiar with their child’s skin (and their own). Check their skin for any new moles, freckles or other marks, or any changes in existing moles or freckles, and talk to your doctor about it.

Summer is well on its way, and so are longer days where lounging on the beach and swimming at the local pool are among our favorite pastimes. However, it’s important to remember that fun in the sun means a greater risk of skin cancer, even for our kids. 

During National Skin Cancer Awareness Month (May), Crozer-Keystone dermatologists remind members of the community to protect their children against the harmful rays of sun that summer brings with hit.  

“Skin cancer, a malignant tumor that grows on our skin cells, is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.,” says Edward Ryan Jr., D.O., chief of the Section of Dermatology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Luckily, skin cancer is also the most preventable form of cancer. But it’s important to practice prevention at an early age.” 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sun exposure early in life is the major contributing factor to developing skin cancer. Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don't have to be at the pool, beach or on vacation to get too much sun, either. Their skin needs protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays whenever they're outdoors. 

The CDC offers these helpful tips when protecting your children from the sun:

  • Seek shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it's best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent. Use these options to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
  • Cover up. Clothing that covers your child's skin helps protect against UV rays. Although a long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best, they aren't always practical. A T-shirt, long shorts, or a beach cover-up are good choices, too — but it's wise to double up on protection by applying sunscreen or keeping your child in the shade when possible.
  • Get a hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don't protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses. They protect your child's eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Apply sunscreen. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection every time your child goes outside. For the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don't forget to protect ears, noses, lips and the tops of feet.

“Even though skin cancer is rare in children, sun damage obtained during childhood may lead to a much greater risk of cancer later in life,” says Robert Rhodes, M.D., chief of the Section of Dermatology at Taylor Hospital. “It’s important for parents to be familiar with their child’s skin (and their own). Check the skin for any new moles, freckles or other marks, or any changes in existing moles or freckles, and talk to your doctor about it.”

“There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma,” says Greg Persichetti, D.O., a dermatologist and surgeon with Brinton Lake Dermatology at the Crozer Medical Plaza and Crozer-Keystone Regional Cancer Center at Brinton Lake. “Because each has many different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs, which can include a skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored; and a mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that changes color, increases in size or thickness, or changes in texture, among others things.

“Parents should be proactive in protecting their children against the sun, and should set a good example for them when they get older,” says John Laskas, co-chief of the Section of Dermatology at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Avoid going to the tanning salon at all costs, and be consistent with sunscreen and other preventive items whenever you are outdoors.”

For more information about skin cancer, and to find a physician who is right for you, visit www.crozerkeystone.org or call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258).

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