Babies & Children

The risk of developing skin cancer is established during childhood through the initiation of long-term harmful effects by UV radiation. Children spend more time in the sun than adults. Approximately half of the total UV exposure up to the age of 60 occurs before the age of 20 (17). This highlights that adequate photoprotection is particularly important in younger years.

Children’s skin shows an increased susceptibility to UV carcinogenesis: a single sunburn doubles the chance of developing melanoma later in life (13, 14). One can observe that UV exposure in early childhood is associated with the number of moles. Multiple moles are the strongest independent risk factor for melanoma in adolescents (15, 16).

It is important to teach children from an early age about good sun protection behavior. School programs such as Sunsmart (Australia) and Sunwise (America) raise significant awareness and an improved photoprotection, resulting in significant reductions in skin cancer incidence and mortality (19). Inducing sun protective behavior in children may encourage appropriate sun protection practices throughout their lifetime. 


babies children

How to protect children?


Children under the age of 12 months should generally be kept out of direct sunlight. 

After the age of 12 months physical photoprotection (clothes, hat, sunglasses) should be used predominantly when direct sun cannot be avoided. Special clothing with high UPF (50+) are recommended. Photoprotection of the eyes is particularly important in younger years, since retinal damage occurs in that period due to the transmission properties of the natural lens (18). 

Physical photoprotection can be supplemented by water-resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 30+ or higher, protecting from UVA and UVB rays. Mineral sunscreen (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) should be preferred, having no skin-irritating or sensitization potential (3).


Help your child to understand the importance of proper sun protection by clicking on the ‘Play and learn with Jo Spots’ book or downloading the printable games below. 



Jo Spots

Printable Games


(3) Lau­tenschlager et al. 2007 - Adverse Reactions to Sunscreens
(13) Dennis et al. 2008 - Sunburns and risk of cutaneous melanoma: does age matter? A comprehensive meta-analysis
(14) Gomez Garcia et al 2011 - Melanoma: is hair the root of the problem?
(15) Eglish et al. - Ultraviolet radiation at places of residence and the development of melanocytic nevi in children (Australia)
(16) Youl et al. 2002 - Melanoma in adolescents: a case–control study of risk factors in Queensland, Australia.
(17) Green et al. Childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation and harmful skin effects: Epidemiological evidence
(18) Sassmannshausen et al 2022 - Impact of ultraviolet radiation on the retina.
(19) Kyle et al. 2008 Economic evaluation of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise Program: sun protection education for young children