By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4)– When it comes to preventing skin cancer, it’s never too early to stay safe in the sun. Now, a panel of national experts is recommending that parents of infants practice sun protection with their kids.

The previous recommendation applied to people ages 10-to-24 years. Doctors were encouraged to tell them about the harmful rays of the sun.

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Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is encouraging doctors to start the counseling with parents of babies as young as 6 months, especially those who are fair-skinned.

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Eight-month-old Owen is out for a stroll with dad, Eric Schroen. The baby is covered with a blanket.

“We just, you know, don’t want to get him sunburned at all. We’d feel terrible,” said Schroen.

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Eight-month-old Owen with dad, Eric Schroen (credit: CBS)

That’s smart because infant skin is still developing.

“It’s thinner than the skin that eventually matures and it’s more susceptible to damage,” said board certified Pediatric Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Swanson with Advanced Dermatology Skin Cancer and Laser Surgery Center, P.C.

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Pediatric Dermatologist Dr. Lisa Swanson (credit: CBS)

So it makes sense that the USPSTF has new recommendations.

The group wants doctors to counsel parents of children as young as 6 months about minimizing exposure to ultraviolent radiation.

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“This is something dermatologists have recommended to their patients for decades,” said Swanson.

She also says to wear hats, protective clothing and sunglasses. Also, sunscreen should be applied every two hours starting at 6 months of age.

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“Sunscreens these days are extraordinarily safe,” said Swanson.

But sunburns are not.

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“Every sunburn we get damages our skin a little bit,” she said.

That early damage contributes to the development of skin cancer later.

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Schroen appreciates the warning, “I think the more education the better for new parents, especially.”

Swanson says we’re finally seeing the incidence of skin cancer starting to drop. She believes, if kids are vigilant about sun protection, we can make a major dent.

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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