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Don't let children get sunburnt this summer

Don't let children get sunburnt this summer – oncologist

An oncologist is urging parents to protect their children from sunburn this summer, to reduce their risk of melanoma as adults.

Associate Professor Graham Stevens, Co-Chair of the Melanoma Network of New Zealand says the dangers of too much sun exposure are magnified from childhood right through to early adulthood so it is essential children and teenagers are protected from the summer sun.

“Many of my patients are shocked to discover they have melanoma, as they don't consider that they spent a lot of time in the sun. But when asked about their childhood years, many patients had a lot of sun exposure or suffered from sunburn.”

Associate Professor Stevens says most people who develop melanoma have been sunburnt in the past.

“Most melanomas are preventable and as an oncologist I see many patients suffering from this disease. It’s vital to understand that too much sun exposure in childhood increases the risk of developing melanoma later in life.

“When many of my older patients were sunburnt – as children – a lot less was known about the risks of excessive UVR exposure. The hard lessons that have been learned by older generations must be taken up by younger ones.”

His comments are endorsed by former Silver Ferns captain Adine Wilson, who was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 25. Now clear of the disease, she is extremely careful to protect herself against the sun – and to protect her 19-month-old son Harper.

“Harper is really blond, and like all young children, his skin burns really easily. Whenever we’re out in the sun I'm very careful to make sure he’s covered up with hats and shirts, and that he has on sunscreen.”

Parents can make sure their children are sun safe by following the slip, slop, slap and wrap rules:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing, i.e. shirt with a collar and long sleeves and trousers or long-legged shorts, and slip into some shade whenever possible.
  • Slop on SPF30+ sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outdoors and every two hours afterwards. (Note: sunscreen should never be your only or main method of sun protection)
  • Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Wrap on some sunglasses: make sure they meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard.

ENDS

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