Early exposure to sun causes cancer later on

By Roslyn Giles

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM)- Michelle Leising enjoys playing with her 2 -year-old daughter Hannah, but she realized their precious time together might be in jeopardy after recent diagnosis. "I had a little spot and it didn't look like a mole, but a little spot on my back so, I went to the dermatologist to have it tested. It was a basil cell; a skin cancer," said Leising.

Leising's condition didn't require radiation but she learned an important lesson. "The doctor told me it was a result of the exposure I had when I was a child.  We didn't have sunscreen early on so I did have a lot of sunburns as a child," added Leising.

Those sunburns trigger a cascade of reactions like Melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer, according to researchers.   A new report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics says the disease appears to be on the rise in young adults. They believe it's a direct result of exposure to the sun early on in life.

Dr. Joseph Zanga, Chief of Pediatrics at Columbus Regional Medical Center says infant skin is not tough enough to withstand the intense sun rays. "Children get sunburned no matter the color of their skin, light or dark. They can burn. If they're out in the sun long enough, children burn, infants and young children burn more quickly."

The recommendation is for babies 6 months and younger to stay out of the sun completely.  Older babies should be dressed in brimmed hats and sun protective clothing. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Amber Delacruz uses sunscreen on her 14-month son Alex.  But she wasn't aware of the recent health warning. "I didn't know direct sunlight in babies could cause cancer later in life. I do know Pediatricians would tell you to expose your baby to sun to get vitamin D," added Delacruz.

The old recommendation is no longer viable.  Doctors say fortified dairy products are a good source for the nutrient.  Both Delacruz and Leising are vowing to protect their children from the sun giving them a better chance at a nice long healthy life.