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Anna asked...

Tags: baby , sun , sunscreen

I have just read an article on how the WHO advises that some sun cream should not be used on children under the age of 6 months? Also that some of the ingredients in sun cream maybe photocarcinogenic. What are your thoughts on this?

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The Answer

Children, whose bodies are developing more quickly than adults, are vulnerable to all sorts of potential threats from the environment, and sun damage is no exception.

The WHO (World Health Organisation) advises that sun exposure in childhood appears to ‘set the stage’ for the risk of skin cancer in later life. Many cancers take a long time to develop, and the earlier a child is exposed to risk factors, the longer they have in their lives for cancer to develop. Many major centres such as the Mayo Clinic advise that children should not have sun cream applied at all under the age of 6 months. They recommend that babies should be kept out of the sun at all times, if possible, and that they should certainly be protected with a broad brimmed hat and well covered clothing.

There is little or no evidence that sun creams themselves cause cancer. Until less than a century ago, nobody wanted to get tanned – pale skin was seen as a marker that you didn’t have to work outdoors for a living. The evidence is that it is our desire for tanning, not our use of sunscreens, which have caused the increased incidence of skin cancer seen in the last century. However, one issue relating to sunscreen use is that it may lull people into a false sense of security – it needs to be applied liberally and frequently to provide full protection.

Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis.


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