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Doctor: Kids young as 14 can get skin cancer

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GRANDVILLE, Mich.  Warm weather is finally here, meaning we're spending more time outdoors. But all of that sun exposure can come with risks, like skin cancer.

Normally, we think of melanoma or other skin cancers as being adult health issues, but skin cancers are becoming more common in kids, according to Dr. Jack Dekkinga, a dermatologist at the Skin Revitalizing Center in Grandville. He tells FOX 17 that skin cancer can affect kids as young as 14 and that's why Dr. Dekkinga is pushing the importance of using sun protection, because everything we do to our bodies now, will affect us for the rest of our lives.

Dr. Jack Dekkinga, M.D

Dr. Jack Dekkinga, M.D

"You only get one set of skin, and that's the skin you're born with,"Dr. Dekkinga said.

Dr. Dekkinga suggests slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen, slapping on a hat, and wrapping on some sunglasses-- all of those are ways to protect yourself and your kids from the sun.

Whether you're fair-skinned, or not, Dr. Dekkinga says it's important to protect yourself from harmful UV rays, especially in your pre-teen years.

"It's those kids that get sun-burnt in those preteen years that end up getting the severe skin cancers including melanoma," he said. "We see skin cancers now in people that are 14 and 15 years old."

Those skin cancers can unfortunately cause death. According to Dr. Dekkinga, there will be more than 5.5 million people diagnosed with some form of skin cancer this year alone, adding that the U.S has seen a massive increase in skin cancer over the last couple of decades. He suggests taking a shot glass worth of sunscreen and apply it on your arms and face.

"There are sunscreens out there, number two, four, six, eight; they really don’t do much. You really have to use 30 or greater...to get some effective sun protection," Dr. Dekkinga said.

Number 30 protection allows you to get one minute of ultraviolet exposure for every half an hour out in the sun. However, when it comes to young kids, Dr. Dekkinga suggests keeping them out of the sun entirely.

"In the early infant stage, just keep your kids out of the sun. They don’t need to go to the beach. They’re not going to benefit from that," he said, adding not to use sunscreen on kids younger than 6 months of age.

"Everything you do to your body, your body remembers for the rest of its life," he said.

When it comes to indoor tanning, Dekkinga says it is extremely bad for your skin. He added that hitting the tanning booth for a base tan before a vacation doesn't help one bit. In fact, it only helps about three percent of people, so most of the time, you're just damaging your skin.

"If you think of it, some people go lay out on the beach for hours at a time. How much time do they spend at the suntan booth? Just a few minutes. So what they’re getting is high intensity energy over a short period of time and that’s what’s really damaging their skin and setting them up for some very dangerous cancers later on in life," Dr. Dekkinga said.

According to Dr. Dekkinga, there's been a big upsurge in the number of melanoma cases in young women in their 20's and 30's. He says it's directly related to tanning booths.

Dr. Dekkinga says there are five ways to check moles or marks on your skin for melanoma:

A-Asemetrical
B-Irregular Borders
C-Color Variety
D-Diameter
E-Evolving

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1 Comment

  • Block Island Organics

    “You really have to use 30 or greater…to get some effective sun protection” – great point!

    One other thing to look for, make sure it says “broad spectrum” on the label. That’s how you know you’re getting UVB and UVA protection.