Cancer Prevention Tips for Kids

Start early when kids are young to introduce healthy eating and lifestyle habits. If you do, not only will they learn to eat the right foods and live a healthier lifestyle, they also can lower their risk of developing some cancers.

Healthy Eating & Exercise

Good eating habits start almost as soon as a child is a toddler.  Unhealthy diets can lead to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, both of which increase the risk of cancer later in life. A diet in fruits and vegetables, lean protein and water is suggested, along with plenty of exercise or activities.

Sun Safety

Sun exposure and sunburns over time can increase the risk for skin cancer. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the risk of melanoma, a severe form of skin cancer, actually doubles if a child has five or more sunburns during adolescence.

Sun safety begins with newborns. If your newborn is outside, you should consider long sleeved, loose clothing to protect them from the sun and placing them in the shade for the majority of the time.  Also, parents should be aware that sunscreen is not recommended for children under the age of six months. Adolescents (and even adults) should not use tanning beds, and an SPF 30 sunscreen is recommended for any sun exposure.

Tobacco Use

Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. Tobacco has been linked to 16 types of cancer, including lung, stomach, mouth and throat cancers. The conversation about the dangers of smoking needs to start before kids get to middle school. While overall smoking rates are on the decline in the United States, the explosion in the popularity of e-cigarettes is a growing concern. These e-cigs or vaping devices have significant nicotine, which is known to cause negative effects on brain development.  Another problem is that these devices also come in various flavors that appeal to adults and adolescents, and they have creative packaging to make them look like pencils or other novelty items, which also makes them an enticing draw.

The purchase of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is prohibited to anyone under the age of 18; however, according to the CDC, nearly 9 out of 10 smokers started smoking by age 18.

A national study found that 56 percent of middle school students had tried or were using a flavor tobacco product.  We even know that some kids buy prepaid credit cards because those can be used to order cigarette products online. Parents really need to be vigilant and know that there is no safe level of nicotine.

Sexual Activity

At Southeast Pediatrics, discussion of sexual health starts with parents knowing about the HPV vaccine, a vaccine available to children as young as 9 that can actually prevent certain types of cancer. We talk about maturing bodies and sexually transmitted diseases, which can increase the risk of cancer later in life.  With the saturation of social media, television and movies, it’s important to have this conversation with adolescents and their parents.