Teen tanning raises risk for skin cancer

Sept. 7, 2014—Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, and a report from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that teenagers aren’t doing all they can to keep their skin cells protected.

In fact, the report suggests that fewer teenagers are using sunscreen when they’re outside and that far too many teens are using indoor tanning beds to bronze their skin.

About the study

Data for this study came from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), in which a representative sample of U.S. high school students in grades 9 through 12 answers questions about their health-risk behaviors.

For this study, researchers evaluated students’ answers to questions about using sunscreen and indoor tanning devices like tanning beds and sunlamps. The findings:

  1. Sunscreen use. In 2011, 56.1 percent of teens reported using sunscreen. That’s bad news: 67.7 percent of teens reported using sunscreen in 2001.
  2. Indoor tanning devices. There is some good news here, as fewer teens are using technology to get tan. In 2009, 15.6 percent of teens reported having used a tanning device at least once. In 2011, that number dipped to 13.3 percent.

The researchers ended the report by concluding that teens make choices that raise their risk for skin cancer and that they do so at a time when their skin cells are especially vulnerable to damage.

For more details about the study, click here.

The take-home message
Whether ultraviolet (UV) rays travel 93 million miles or only a few inches, overexposure to them raises the risk for skin cancer—including life-threatening melanoma. As the study’s authors note, preventing this overexposure is especially important during childhood and adolescence.While this report suggests that teens are getting the message about tanning beds, those who continue to use the devices could be doing extensive damage. Research shows that using indoor tanning devices before age 25 increases nonmelanoma skin cancer risk by 40 to 102 percent. Another study found that with each additional tanning session per year, melanoma risk increases by 1.8 percent. So parents: When your teens ask to tan, say no.

In addition, it’s important to stress the importance of sunscreen to teens. Teach your children to follow these dermatologists’ tips:

  1. Use a product that:
    • Has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
    • Is water-resistant
    • Provides broad-spectrum coverage—which means it protects from both UVA and UVB rays
  2. Apply it at least 15 minutes before going outside. This gives skin time to absorb the sunscreen.
  3. Use the proper amount per application. You need the amount that can fit into your palm to protect your body.
  4. Spread it over all exposed skin. Be sure to coat neck, face, ears, legs and feet.
  5. Protect lips with a lip balm that has an SPF of at least 15.
  6. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and right after swimming or sweating a lot.

Babies also need protection from the sun’s rays. Click here for tips on protecting their sensitive skin.


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