Researchers from Denver evaluated 681 children born in Colorado asking their parents about their childhood vacation destinations and then conducted skin examinations when their children were older to look for moles. These moles are a risk factor for developing malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
The mole count went up 5% for every beach holiday the kids took from age one year upwards. Study author, Lori Crane said that while sun exposure at home was not related to the number of moles that developed on children, there was a link to the number of holidays taken by the sea. And the mole count seemed to increase despite sunscreen use.
Crane, like other experts, said parents often believe sunscreen is a safeguard against skin cancer. While sunscreen offers protection, children who wear it might stay out in the sun longer – long after the protection from the sunscreen has subsided, she said.
When parents do take kids to the beach they should be cautious, Crane said. “They should not rely just on sunscreen. They should get water shirts for their kids and try to avoid middle-of-the-day outside activities,” she said.
SunSmart NZ advises that sunscreen is the last line of defence and that it is important to wear protective clothing, a hat, sunglasses, keep in the shade whenever possible and avoid the peak UV radiation period between 11am and 4pm.