Health Team

Report: Youth time to wear sunblock, avoid skin cancer

Posted May 8, 2012

Many young people need to learn to protect themselves against the sun to help prevent skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in America, with 2 million people diagnosed annually, according to a government task force.

Ninth-grader Sabrina Cohen, 14, always wears sunscreen, no matter what she's doing outside.

"I know it's fun to be tan, and it looks nice sometimes, but it's really not worth it," Sabrina said.

The government task force found that counseling children on skin cancer prevention helped make them more responsible about sun exposure. 

The task force recommends that doctors talk to patients between ages 10 and 24 about protecting their skin even if they have no history of the disease.

"The sun damage people get in their youth is probably more damaging than what happens when they're older. The body is less able to cope or more easily damaged in a permanent way," said pediatrician Dr. David Keene, with Cedars-Sinai Health Associates in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Suncreen prevent skin cancer in children Government: Urge kids to wear sunblock

Primary care doctors are encouraged to tell young patients that tanned skin is damaged skin. Patients with a suspicious spot should be to referred to a dermatologist to determine if it's cancerous or precancerous.

The task force recommends that young people do not go to tanning salons, avoid the mid-day sun and, particularly younger children, use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

The report also states that people with fair skin and light-colored eyes need to be especially careful because they have an increased risk of cancer.

Debbie Cohen said she worked hard to help her daughter Sabrina develop the habit of wearing sunscreen.

"When I put suncreen on them before a game or before school, they'd be so annoyed and say I was the only mom doing this. And then I said, 'One day, you'll thank me,'" Cohen said.

Today, Sabrina makes it a point to avoid tanning.

"I know that it has a bad affect on you later on, so it's not even worth it," she said.


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  • Reader X May 14, 2012

    I have no regrets of tanning when I was younger. I am lucky in the fact that it does take me a long time to tan and I can be out in the sun for several hours before I start to burn. As I have gotten older, I have tried to use sun screen, but it makes my skin itch and it will burn if I put it on my face. Using a sunblock 4 or 8 won't even let me get any color at all- even if I am out in the sun all day long. Tried it in the Bahama's and got itchy and frustrated so I washed it off. I'm sure most people are not like me. I don't push sunblock on anyone because they may find it itchy too.

  • JoJo82 May 10, 2012

    I wish I could go back and tell my 16-year-old self to wear more sunscreen. I cringe at some of the burns I suffered with the goal of looking tan.

  • k2tal38 May 9, 2012

    I worry about the chemicals in sunscreen !

  • pirate09 May 9, 2012

    Its true you should always wear sunscreen, but the truth is tanned skin is not "damaged skin" as the article states. Tanned skin is your skins reaction to the sun and an increase in melanoma output to protect your skin from the sun. I ALWAYS wear sunscreen on a daily basis on my face SPF 15 all year round and use SPF 30 when I am at the beach or the pool, but I still tan, its my skins defense so I can be out in the sun. I do not "go tanning" at the beds as others my age do (mid 20's) and do not try to get bronze but to say that someone who has a tan is damaged is going a bit far.

  • Casu-Al May 8, 2012

    Thank you for sharing this story during Skin Cancer/Melanoma Awareness Month.