With the growing awareness of the effects of global warming, more and more parents have a right to be concerned about protecting their children from ultraviolet radiation, which has been shown to cause cancer. June 8 - 14, 2009, has been set aside as national Sun Awareness Week. In advance of that, camps.ca would like to remind parents of the damage the sun can cause to skin and eyes.
It is common practice for people to apply sun screen these days. This is most important when it comes to children. Statistics show that for most people, over 80% of their exposure to sunlight comes before the age of 18. Over-exposure to ultra violet radiation (UVR) at an early age can lead to increased risk of cancer at a later age.
Ultraviolet rays come in three broad types, on a spectrum:
Sun protection from the very earliest ages is critical to minimizing cancer risks later in life. However, with our increased awareness of the damage of UV rays, a number of precautions are widely thought to reduce the potential harm your children might receive:
Many children like to wear sunglasses (they're "cool," of course). In this case, make sure that their sunglasses offer UV protection and there are brands of sunglasses that offer 100% protection from the UV spectrum. The eyelids are actually one of the most vulnerable areas of skin; ten percent of all skin cancers occur on the eyelids.
A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin showed a strong correlation between time spent outdoors at an early age and the risk of early onset macular degeneration - the leading cause of adult blindness in North America.
If your children are swimming, be sure to encourage them to wear sunglasses or a hat. While sunglasses offer ideal protection, a hat also offers some sun protection. (Bear in mind that a hat does not protect the neck, so slop on the sunblock back there!)
When sending a child off to a summer camp, whether that is an overnight camp or a summer day camp, pack lots of sunblock and make sure your child knows the importance of regular application. Inevitably, kids outdoors will catch a lot of sunshine but remind them often of the benefits of sunblock, hats, sunglasses, shade and anything else that will help keep sun damage to a minimum.
This June - and in fact, all summer, of course, Our Kids encourages you to enjoy the warm summer sun as much as you can - within reason. Just be fully aware of its negative side effects, and protecting your children and yourself as much as possible.
Don't forget, of course, that sun damage can also happen in winter, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors in the snow; snow reflects a significant percentage of ambient sunlight (some experts say as high as 80%), so sun damage can be just as bad during winter as during summer.
2009 National Sun Awareness Week Events Page
American Academy of Dermatology's publication, Sun Protection for Children.
The Canadian Cancer Society's Sun Safety Quiz
The Canadian Dermatology Association's Fact sheet on sun protection (PDF).
Stephen Brunto et al. A Multidisciplinary Approach Challenging Current Thinking on UV and Glare. 2003. Available online. (Download the PDF)
KJ Cruickshanks, R Klein, BE Klein. "Sunlight and age-related macular degeneration: the Beaver Dam Eye Study." Arch Ophthalmol. 1993: 111(4): 514-518