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Health Team

Study: Sunscreen crucial in childhood, but few doctors stress it

Posted September 4, 2013 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated September 4, 2013 6:58 p.m. EDT

— Cristina Riley listens to the advice of her children’s pediatrician and always slathers them with sunscreen.

Riley said her doctor has mentioned what to look for in a sunblock and how to apply it regularly.

A new study finds many doctors don't always have that conversation with their patients.

Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine tracked 18 billion of patient visits from 1989 through 2010.

"Sunscreens are recommended at less than one in 1,000 of those visits," said Dr. Steve Feldman, professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

The study also found that doctors usually mentioned sunscreen to older patients, and often not to younger ones.

Researchers say the findings are concerning because up to 80 percent of sun damage is believed to happen before age 21. Sunburns during childhood greatly increase the risk of skin cancer.

"What we are really missing is recommending it to people who are younger to prevent skin cancers from ever forming in the first place," said Feldman.