Hanging out at the pool, spending days at the beach or going to tanning salons may seem like typical teenager behaviour. But while it seems like typical teen vanity, it may be quite dangerous. In addition to unprotected sun exposure at the pool or beach, research shows that tanning salons increase the risk of skin cancers – both squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma - compared with nonusers.
Skin cancers in children are often undetected because many doctors don’t even think about looking for skin cancer in youngsters. There aren’t any guidelines for skin examinations in children and most of us assume that skin cancer only affects us as we get older. Yet statistics show that skin cancer is becoming increasingly common in children as young as 10. And the Center for Disease Control reports that less than one third of American youths practice effective sun protection and that less than half of teenagers use sunscreen. So it’s important to figure out a way to protect your teenager from skin cancer.
Just one bad sunburn in childhood can double an individual’s chances of developing deadly forms of skin cancer later in life. And even a mild to moderate increase in sun exposure over an extended period, with or without sunburn, may significantly spur the growth of pigmented moles in children, greatly increasing their risk of skin cancers. Because the cells in teens’ skin are dividing and changing more quickly than in adults, teens may be at greater risk for developing skin cancer than adults.
So how can you help to protect your teenager from skin cancer?
- Get a teen friendly brand. As long as it offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection and is photostable (it won’t degrade in the sunlight) like the Anthelios line by La Roche Posay, let your teen make the final selection.
- Choose easy to apply formulations. Teens are always in a rush so if you opt for a spray like Anthelios Spray SPF 30, it’s more likely to go on.
- Start early. Applying sunscreen should become a habit, just like wearing a seatbelt.
- Educate your teen about sun safety:
- Seeking shade where possible, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are most harmful
- Covering up with protective clothing such as wide brimmed hats or long sleeved shirts if possible
- Avoiding tanning salons which damage skin and can eventually lead to skin cancer
- Wearing sunglasses. The cool factor associated with this accessory should help!
Though trying to get a teenager to do what you want is never easy, sun smart habits started early can go a long way towards protecting your teenager from skin cancer.