Sunscreen…did it make your back to school list?

For many adult Australians who have been affected by skin cancer, the damage to their skin was done during childhood. As parents, keeping our children healthy is our top priority, and unlike previous generations, we now know there are many ways we can help reduce their risk of developing skin cancer through sun protection.   

We used to think that sunburn was the major cause of skin cancer but we have since discovered that even short exposures to the sun without burning can most certainly result in skin cancer.  Between 8am and 4pm is when the UV rays are the most extreme and we need to be most vigilant, which is when children are traveling to and from school, moving between classes and playing outdoors with friends during breaks.

Melanoma is one of the most prevalent deadly skin cancers in North Queensland, and research shows that the risk of developing a melanoma is decreased by 50% when you apply sunscreen daily.   With the kids heading back to school this week, it is a perfect time to make daily sunscreen application part of your family’s routine.   

Most day cares and kindergartens have a policy that requires sunscreen to be applied at morning drop off, so it is ideal if you can continue this as you transition your child to “big school”.  If your children are older, it may take a little more effort to reinstate this daily habit, but you will be glad you did!  

We’ve put together some tips so that no matter what age they are, you can persevere through the initial objections to establish this important routine.

Create Awareness, Not Fear 

Regular conversations with your children about preventing skin cancer can help them understand the importance of sun protection to safely enjoy the beautiful North Queensland lifestyle.  Depending on their age, share statistics and facts such as: 

  • Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world with our national statistics showing an overall incidence of melanoma of 48 per 100,000 people. There is no doubt that Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world, however, with the much higher than national incidence of 71 per 100,000 people.
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that at least 2 in 3 Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer before the age of 70. These figures are even higher in Queensland.
  • Skin cancer causes more deaths than transport accidents every year in Australia (ABS 2018)
  • Australian adolescents and young adults have by far the highest incidence of melanoma in the world compared to other countries. Melanoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among 15–39 year olds. 

Remind your children it is because you care for them, and make sunscreen a non-negotiable requirement, just as we ensure they use their seatbelt in the car every time you drive.

Image conscious teenagers may also be persuaded when you remind them that daily sunscreen use reduces freckles and unwanted pigmentation, and many celebrities rate it the most important step of their beauty routine!

Choose the right sunscreen

When most people think of sunscreen, they associate it with the greasy feeling of the common waterproof sunscreens we apply for a day at the beach or pool.  However, there are many quality, affordable sunscreens that are non-greasy and absorb well.  Choose a good quality, 50+ sunscreen and if necessary, experiment until you find one that your child likes using.

At Skin Repair Skin Cancer Clinic, we stock Hamilton Everyday Face 50+ sunscreen, a non-waterproof sunscreen that feels more like moisturiser than a sunscreen. It may be ideal for those who don’t like the feel of normal sunscreen. If your child is going swimming, they will of course need a waterproof sunscreen.

Make it visible

Agree on a location to keep the sunscreen that makes it easy for your children to incorporate into their morning routine, such as in the bathroom so they can apply after brushing their teeth.  Teenagers may prefer their own tube to keep on their bedside table.

Be a role model

If applying sunscreen daily isn’t already something you do, make the commitment to your children that you are going to join them in this new habit for healthy skin!  Keep a family tally board on the fridge or calendar for a month, and reward yourselves at the end of each week with a small treat until it becomes a habit.

We wish all children and their parents a wonderful first week back to school, and hope these tips help you incorporate sunscreen into your morning routine, not only protecting your precious people throughout childhood, but setting the foundation for a lifelong habit that significantly reduces their risk of skin cancer.