Do children get skin cancer?

While pediatric skin cancer is rare, it is not unheard of. In addition, it is important to protect your children’s skin from the sun, as one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life.

Non-blistering sunburns also increase the risk for melanoma and other skin cancers. Kids can get up to 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18, so it’s important that parents teach their children how to safely enjoy fun in the sun.

Babies under 6 months of age should not be exposed to the sun. An infant’s skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin and provides some sun protection. An infant’s skin is also too sensitive for sunscreen.

Infants spending time outdoors should wear protective clothing, including wide brim hats, and use an umbrella or covered stroller to keep them in the shade.

It is safe to use sunscreen on children 6 months and older, but test for allergies before applying. Sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is less likely to cause a reaction if your child has sensitive skin or is prone to allergies.

Even while using sunscreen, children should wear lightweight protective clothing. Encourage your children to seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Children should wear hats that protect their ears and faces from the sun as well as sunglasses to protect their eyes.

Educating your children about sun safety at an early age will ensure that they keep up healthy sun safety habits as they grow older.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273,, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Sun Safety –

Sun Protection: Children– Skin Cancer Foundation

Unusual Cancers – Childhood – National Cancer Institute

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.