How to Keep Teens Safe From the Sun
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Cindy L. Schwartz, MD, MPH, director of pediatric hematology-oncology, Hasbro Children's Hospital, spoke to GoLocal about how to help teens avoid sun exposure that could become very dangerous.
What are the 3 most important things a teen can do to minimize sun exposure?
Sun exposure can be minimized by 1) limiting time in the sun around midday when rays are strongest, 2) wearing sun hats and protective clothing when possible and 3) applying sun tan lotion (SPF >30) before going outside, especially in spring and summer, even if it appears cloudy.
What do teens forget when it comes to tanning?
Tanning is a response of the skin to damage induced by the sun. While it may "look good" for a bit, there is damage that will injure the skin in the long run both increasing the risk for cancer—and for aging.
Is there more or less pressure on teens these days to look tan, in your experience?
There appears to be increasing pressure to look tan. Between 1999 and 2009, one study has shown that the number of high school students who did not use sunscreen increased from 57% to 69% (Jones SE, J Adolesc Health 2012 50(3), 304.)
What are some signs parents should watch for that might indicate their kids have sun damage?
Excessive tanning (caused by sun or tanning salons) or sunburns are of concern in the immediate period. Another sign of sun damage, over a longer time, is increased freckling.
How much more are teens at risk for cancer later in life if they over-expose themselves to sun at a younger age?
Exact numbers are difficult to obtain. One study showed a 2-fold increase risk of melanoma in people with a history of sunburns. Another showed a 3-4 fold increased risk in people who were unaware of the risk of sun-exposure (and therefore likely did not protect themselves).
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