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Tans and Teens

Teach Your Teens the Benefits of Staying Out of the Sun

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Young adults are ignoring recommendations for improved sun protection, and avoidance of tanning beds and sunburns, according to the study, "Use of Sunscreen, Sunburning Rates and Tanning Bed Use Among More Than 10,000 Children and Adolescents."

The researchers gave a questionnaire to children in all 50 states, ages 12-18. Only a third of the children reported routine use of sunscreen during the previous summer, and nearly 10 percent of respondents used a tanning bed during the previous year. Most of the children reported sunburning at least once, and half of children who burned more than once agreed that it was worth burning to get a tan later on. The researchers conclude that a nationally coordinated effort is needed to prevent skin cancer in a new generation of children and adolescents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants to warn high school and college students that chronic sun exposure eventually can cause signs of premature aging - including wrinkles, sagging cheeks and skin discoloration.

The AAP also says that long-term sun exposure is a key factor in the development of skin cancer. Most "non-melanoma" skin cancers (the most common cancer in America) are caused by unprotected sun exposure in childhood and adolescence -- specifically ultraviolet or "UV-A" and "UV-B" rays. Research shows that bulbs at tanning salons emit ultraviolet rays too. Sophie J. Balk, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Environmental Health says, "There is really no such thing as a safe tan - all tans cause skin damage."

The deadliest form of skin cancer, called "melanoma," killed about 7,800 people in the United States last year, and that number is expected to rise this year. Melanoma often strikes people who suffer deep, intense sunburns, particularly in childhood and adolescence.

But it's not too late for high school and college kids to prevent further damage to their skin - and they don't have to give up their warm weather fun either. Just remember these tips:

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and avoid sun exposure during the peak intensity hours - between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The risk of tanning and burning also increases at higher altitude.
  • Sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 should be effective for most people. Be sure to apply enough sunscreen - about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Some self-tanning products contain sunscreen, but others don't, so read the labels carefully. In addition, tanning oils or baby oil may make skin look shiny and soft, but they provide no protection from the sun.

Source AP Study

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