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Safe Sun Habits Reduce Cancer Risk

Sobering statistics

Getting kids to protect their skin is a struggle. Many only think about sunscreen when they know they are going to be outside all day, not when they are at practice or games. Some don't wear sun block because they don't like the smell or because they think it is messy.

Indeed, according to an article in the April 2006 Journal of School Health, only 1 in 7 high school students reported routine sunscreen use with an SPF of 15 or higher when outside for more than an hour a day.

Efforts to educate teens on sun safety appear to be gaining little or no traction: the same study showed little change in sunscreen use in bi-annual surveys between 1999 and 2005.

Practicing safe sun habits

It's therefore critical for parents to protect their children from the damaging effects of the sun no matter what they are doing or the time of year. If a child is outside she needs to be protected.

Build safe sun habits into your family's routine. Lead by example: children are more likely to practice sun safety if they see you protecting your skin.

Begin by teaching your children the American Cancer Society's easy and fun "safe sun habits": Slip! Slop! Slap!®:

  1. Slip! on a shirt. Wear protective clothing (shirts and slacks made of tightly woven fabrics that you can't see through when held up to the light) when in the sun.
  2. Slop! on sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protective Factor) of 15 or higher (remember to reapply after swimming, sweating or toweling dry)
  3. Slap! on a hat with a wide brim that shades the face, neck, and ears.
  4. Plan outdoor activities to avoid the midday sun (the sun's rays are generally strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Other helpful tips

Here are some other helpful tips for parents:

  • Teach your child the "shadow rule": if his shadow is shorter than he is, then the sun is high in the sky and UV rays are most intense
  • Buy your child wraparound sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive surrounding skin
  • Apply sunscreen every day on unprotected skin
  • Keep an extra bottle of sunscreen in the car
  • Pack sunscreen in your child's knapsack or sports bag.
  • Teach your child to appreciate the beauty of their natural skin tone.



1. Consumer Reports National Research Center poll May 2009

 Revised and updated July 9, 2013