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Cancer Prevention Starts in Childhood

Sun Safety: The Key to Skin Cancer Prevention

Photo: A mother putting a hat on her daughter.Most skin cancers can be prevented if children and teens (and adults, too) are protected from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Just a few serious sunburns can increase your child's risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don't have to be at the beach to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun's harmful UV rays whenever they're outdoors.

To protect yourself and your family—

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Put on sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

The UV rays from tanning beds and sunlamps are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun. Don't let your children or teens use them. Many states restrict the use of tanning beds by children and teens.

A Vaccine to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Photo: A healthcare professional with a patient.Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another during sex, is the main cause of cervical cancer. The same virus also is linked with many vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers.

A vaccine to prevent HPV infections is available. It protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cancer. The vaccine is given in a series of three shots and is recommended routinely for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys. The vaccine also is recommended for girls and women aged 13 through 26 years and boys and men aged 13 through 21 years who did not get any or all of the shots before. The vaccine can be given beginning at age 9.

Major Causes of Lung Cancer

Graphic: No SmokingSmoking. Tobacco use is the major cause of lung cancer in the United States. The best way to prevent lung cancer is by never starting to smoke, or quitting if you do smoke. It is important to prevent adolescents from starting to smoke.

In 2011, 44.7% of high school students reported that they had at least tried smoking. One in five high school students was a current smoker.

Talk to your children about why you don't want them to smoke.

Secondhand smoke. Smoke from other people's cigarettes ("secondhand" smoke) can cause lung cancer. There is no safe level of secondhand smoke for nonsmokers. Don't expose your children to secondhand tobacco smoke.

In your own home, establish a smoke-free policy.

More Information

CDC works 24/7 saving lives and protecting people from health threats to have a more secure nation. A US federal agency, CDC helps make the healthy choice the easy choice by putting science and prevention into action. CDC works to help people live longer, healthier and more productive lives.


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  • Page last reviewed: July 9, 2012
  • Page last updated: July 9, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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