Home » All posts » Sun, kids and Vitamin D: in memory of Trevor

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It may seem like a strange time of year to write about sunburn. But my brother-in-law, Trevor, died of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, four years ago today, and the local travel shop windows are loaded with winter breaks to hot places. So I want to mark the day by writing about the latest sun advice, particularly about how to make sure our children get enough Vitamin D – most of which comes from the sun – and which we all need for many aspects of good health.

I asked Trevor’s own consultant, Professor Julia Newton-Bishop, who heads the melanoma team in St James’ Hospital in Leeds, for the latest advice.

‘The critical issue for parents is that children should not get burnt: even pink,’ said Professor Newton-Bishop. ‘Many children are so fair that sunburn occurs very easily. So parents need to be vigilant on holiday and whenever they are outside in the summer. This means using at least Factor 30 with 5* UVA protection sunscreen. And parents should never let their children run around with vulnerable shoulders exposed: always cover up with T-shirts etc.’

For many children, though, the sun is also their main source of Vitamin D (the ‘sunshine vitamin’), and that’s where people can feel confused. ‘We don’t want to render our children Vitamin D deficient,’ says Professor Newton-Bishop. ‘So some sun exposure is helpful, particularly for darker skinned children.’

Working out how much sun exposure your children (and you) need depends on factors where you live, what time of year it is, how much time you spend outside, how quickly your skin burns, and your existing health and age.

So how can we parents get the balance right? ‘If it’s simply too difficult for your children to get enough sun exposure without burning (or going pink), parents should protect children from the sun and increase Vitamin D levels with fatty fish such as salmon’ says Professor Newton-Bishop. You can also get it from herring, kippers, mackerel, pilchards, sardines and tuna, as well as some fortified breakfast cereals or children’s multivitamins.
Melanoma is so easy to cure, but on one condition: that it’s caught well in time. So keep an eye on any moles, too. If you do notice a mole you don’t think was there before, go to your GP. If an existing mole changes in any way – shape, size, texture, outline, colour – go to your GP. If you’ve got any kind of skin blemish that doesn’t heal in two weeks ¬– go to your GP. Even it doesn’t look like a mole. Just go. Don’t let melanoma rob you of a loved one like it robbed us of Trevor.

And as for sun-beds… Don’t. Just don’t.

1 Comment

  1. Sorry to hear about your brother. You have been very brave writing about it here and it brings home the dangers of feeling the need for vanity. I hired sunbeds when I was in my twenties but have never been near one since having Amy, aged at aged 30. Thank you for this very informative post.

    CJ xx

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