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8.25.2015

Early Study Finds Many Parents Not Shielding Babies from Sun’s Harmful Rays

Despite routine warnings about the dangers of extreme sun exposure, many parents are not taking appropriate steps to protect their babies. That’s the finding of a small study conducted by skin cancer experts at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Study author Keyvan Nouri, M.D., Chief of Dermatology Services and Director of Mohs Laser Surgery at Sylvester, presented the findings recently at the American Academy of Dermatology Summer Academy Meeting held in New York City.

In one of the first studies of the black and Hispanic infant population, Nouri and his Sylvester research team surveyed 95 parents, and found that only about 15 percent were aware of the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) recommendations for sun safety in infants.

While 83 percent of the parents said they regularly kept their infants in the shade, only 43 percent routinely use a hat to shield their baby from the sun, and 40 percent said they routinely dress their babies in long sleeves and pants to protect them from the sun.

Twenty-nine percent of parents surveyed said they regularly use sunscreen on children younger than six months, even though other methods of sun protection are recommended for children that young. The AAD does not recommend the use of sunscreen in babies younger than six months because there have not been sufficient studies indicating it is safe. Instead, the AAD advises caregivers to use physical barriers, keeping babies in the shade, or using a hat or appropriate long sleeves and pants to protect them from the sun’s harmful rays.

The survey also found that one-third of the parents said they often tried to get their baby to “develop tolerance to the sun’s rays” by gradually increasing the infant’s exposure to the sun.

“Some parents may think they’re helping their children by exposing them to the sun, but actually, the opposite is true. Unprotected sun exposure can damage the skin and lead to skin cancer,” said Nouri, who is also professor of dermatology, the Richard Helfman Professor of Dermatologic Surgery and the Louis C. Skinner Jr., M.D., Endowed Chair in Dermatology.

“Anyone can get skin cancer, so everyone should take steps to protect themselves and their children from the sun’s harmful rays,” Nouri said. “Parents of all skin colors should set a good example by practicing sun protection and instill good habits in their children from an early age.”

Nouri’s team was made up of project leader and Miller School medical student Fleta Netter Bray, fellow medical students Sebastian Verne, Jessica Cervantes, Alexandra Balaban, Eric Bray, and Brian Simmons, and Graduate Education Specialty Training (GEST) Fellow Mohammad Alsaidan, M.D.

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