Health Team

Study shows children getting too much sun

Posted January 24, 2012

As a child, Colleen McDonald, 43, practically lived outside and got plenty of sunburns.

"We never really thought about sunscreen or anything – going to the beach – and as I got older, I went to tanning beds," McDonald said.

Studies show early sun damage can lead to skin cancer, which McDonald knows all too well.

"I don't even remember how many biopsies (I’ve had). I've had five melanoma surgeries," she said.

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics shows many children might be headed down the same path. Of 360 children in Massachusetts, only 25 percent used sunscreen regularly. Many were also getting too much sun.

"Nearly 50 percent of the teenagers, at age 11, reported having at least one episode of sunburn, and that's alarming," said Dr. Steven Wang, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, N.J.

Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer, and one of the most common cancers for young adults.

Study: Children getting too much sun Study: Children getting too much sun

Doctors advise people to have a skin exam at least once a year and look out for lesions that change shape, size or color or become painful, bleed or itch.

McDonald hopes her story will be a lesson for children to take the sun seriously. She suggests people use sunscreen, wear hats and never go into a tanning bed because they can't undo damage from the sun.

It's estimated there will be more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed this year and more than 9,100 deaths.


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  • Casu-Al Feb 2, 2012

    I invite anyone to learn more about melanoma at a symposium sponsered by UNC Division of Surgical Oncology, Dept of Dermatology, and the Melanoma Research Foundation on February 15. This is an afternoon of presentations for patients, those who've had loved ones affected, and all interested parties. Topics include all aspects of melanoma from the medical challenges to sun screens and tanning beds. I would also encourage WRAL to cover this informative event.

  • carolctaylor Jan 30, 2012

    As someone who is stage 3b melanoma, I'd like to invite you all to Freedom Park in Charlotte, Saturday November 17th for an Aim at Melanoma Walk. Meeting some us and getting some facts might save some lives.

  • k2tal38 Jan 30, 2012

    I also believe like some of you that sunscreen is very bad for you ...but I try to buy all natural. I dont know what the answer is but after having squamous cell carcinoma at 45 on the very center of my nose and having it cut open from the bridge to the tip to fix the deep dime size hole created by removing the cancer we do have to keep trying to educate people. I limit my sun exposure at the peak of the day and try not to get any color change from the sun and I take extra Vitamin D3 every day and pray they got all....oh and I get a full body check every six months!! I cringe when I see people that are super tan or going to tanning beds!

  • ronda1991 Jan 30, 2012

    Have you ever looked at the labels of sunscreen? The ingredients themselves are dangerous and toxic. Slathering all that stuff on your skin and then it absorbing into your bloodstream is more dangerous than exposure to the sun. The "establishment" just wants to keep us sick so we will need to buy their medicines. We need real Vitamin D only the sun can provide, not the fake stuff we are told to ingest. Fear mongering Liberal media in the pockets of Big Pharma! Don't believe anything they say!!!!

  • dwarner3 Jan 27, 2012

    this article about too much sun is written by lobbyists for the electronic game industry in an attempt to keep children inside playing more video games and the like. nice try, and it will probably work adding up to more obese children who don't go outside , fearing the sun thereby getting zero excercise

  • ptrrrk1 Jan 27, 2012

    You people should really educate yourself before getting on line. Of course to much sun exposure is bad for you. Be serious will you.

  • b75 Jan 27, 2012

    Without the sun no life would exist on earth! As with anything too much of it can be bad. Please do not let the biased liberal media poison you with false science. It has never been proven that sun exposure causes cancer. Cancer is caused when the skin mutates during the healing process after burning. Your body is supposed to tan and it then produces Vitamin D. It is a natural process! These reporters come up with everything they can to scare the mess out of everyone and to sell more news

  • Casu-Al Jan 27, 2012

    Those who got sun burned and tanned in the 70's could still develop melanoma as a result. As I mentioned, my brother tanned in the '70's and didn't have any issues for decades until melanoma was diagnosed in August 2010. He died three months later. Yes, there is excessive worry about many medical issues (like germs), but we're only now seeing the long-term effects of early-life sun exposure and sun burns.

    You worded it best when you stated "Try not to burn and see a doctor regularly." Trying not to burn means making sure the kids are protected by sun screen so that melanoma doesn't show up on them in the 2050's.

  • dsroyston Jan 27, 2012

    50% reported they had at least one episode of sunburn by age 11? That's not bad at all! We used to spend hours in the sun with little sunscreen on back in the 70's and were always tan or a little burned. So far we're all still here and no cancer. People worry to much about stuff like this, especially germs. I think these studies get money from the companies that make items like suntan lotion and hand sanitizers for writing stories like this and making people scared. Now if video games were giving off these rays, then kids would be getting too much sun! Just try not to burn yourself and see a doctor regularly!

  • Casu-Al Jan 26, 2012

    Vitamin D IS important for sure...but one can get a full daily allotment of Vitamin D with only 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure! In addition, many doctors will suggest a Vitamin D3 supplement...not to mention from fish, eggs, fortified milk and other foods. There are plenty of ways to ensure one gets an adequate amount of Vitamin D without enduring exposure to UV rays.