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Study: Teens Don't Care about Sun's Effects

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It’s hard to explain to a 5 and 3-year old why it’s important to coat their bodies in greasy sunscreen when we go outside. They can’t quite understand the concept of cancer and skin damage, so sometimes it’s a battle to get them covered.  Especially when we’re outside a lot in the summer, I use sunscreen as much as possible (although I do give them a little time without it just so they get their daily dose of Vitamin D).  I also encourage them to wear hats because I don’t think you can be too careful when it comes to the sun. 
When my kids ask “Why do we always have to put that stuff on?!?!”, I just tell them their beautiful skin won’t be so nice anymore if they don’t.   I hoping that by establishing these habits now, as they get older it will be second-nature to protect themselves from the sun before going outside.  There is so much talk in the news these days about the harmful effects of the sun; you’d think everyone (especially young people) would be diligent about using sunscreen.  A new study says the majority are not. 
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that only 25 percent of 14-year olds surveyed use sunscreen on a regular basis.  As they got older, the kids were even less likely to use sunscreen and on average, spent more time in the sun.  The study examined data on hundreds of fifth graders who were surveyed in 2004 and then again 3 years later.  As the number who used sunscreen dropped, the number who said they like spending time outside getting a tan increased. 
I used to tan (inside and outside) when I was a teenager, and I cringe when I think about that now.  My “excuse” is that we didn’t know it could be harmful, kind of like kids who started smoking before anyone realized how dangerous it could be.  But now that we do know the risks, it’s hard to believe that more kids aren’t taking the steps to protect themselves.   Researchers stress the importance of education to help kids make healthier choices to protect their skin.  But it can be difficult to convince someone to make changes now that will benefit them 10 or 20 years down the road. 
What do you think?  How do we get more kids to use sunscreen on a regular basis?

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I try to teach my kids not to go out the door in the morning before they have sunscreen on. There's a big pump bottle of the stuff on a table by the front door. I want it to become a habit for them, but it's an uphill battle. Report
Sunscreen is extremely unhealthy and can cause cancer. Report
I think what you are doing it the best bet - make it habit young. Remember, especially teenagers - they are invincible! At least they think so, not wearing sunscreen is sometimes the least of the risky behaviors teenagers engage in because they are young and strong and nothing can hurt them - so they think. I think to try and get them to start once they hit junior high and high school is like trying to beat a dead horse to go faster. Having been working with young people these ages for the last 22 years - it's been my experience that most have an I can't get hurt attitude! Report
Skin cancer is serious business and we need to treat it like that. We need to get the truth out there that a sun tan is damaged skin. I ran track and was a lifeguard and basically lived outside all of my childhood and teenage life. We didn't wear sunscreen and I adored my tan skin. Then at 39 I was diagnosed with Melanoma.
Trust me all the joy of having that tan skin was erased by doctor visits, surgeries, over thirty skin biopsies and most of all the fact that I might be around to see my children grow up. Tan skin is a risk, plain and simple. Take the steps to protect yourself and your love ones. You will not be sorry you did, only sorry if you don't.

Try different sunscreens until you find one that works for you. No one wants to feel covered with a greasy heavy lotion so don't give up until you find the right one.
I use Ceravee and you can get it at Wal-Mart. Be smart protect your skin.
Blessings!! Report
I sure wish I had used sunscreen when I was young! Report
I'm always torn about this. On one hand, people have survived thousands of years without sunscreen and without cancer. Recent studies have shown that outdoor workers have less incidence of cancer than indoor workers because they get a balanced exposure of UVA and UVB rays, whereas windows filter out all the UVB rays and leave indoor workers exposed only to UVA rays, which are the ones that cause cancer. Equal exposure allows production of vitamin D and other body processes that prevent cancer.

Here's the address to an abstract for any doubters who might be wondering where the heck I pulled this from!

I'm not making this up, I swear!

If one isn't careful, the same can happen with sunscreen -- blocking out UVB rays but not blocking out UVA rays. Sunscreen needs to be broad-spectrum or else you're blocking out the good rays and letting the bad ones in.

Of course, on the other hand, people have lived thousands of years without sunscreen, without skin cancer, but WITH wrinkles! I don't want those! I started wearing sunscreen on my face religiously when I was in high school and on Retin-A, and now it's habit. I just try to stick to one that is natural so I'm not smearing chemicals all over myself and so I'm getting equal UV blockage. Now I'm 29 years old and nobody, literally nobody, guesses that I'm over 22. A few weeks ago, I was told I looked 17.

This is all so complex, I figure don't shun the sun (I DO like the look of a little sun-kiss, not a sun-bake, and that's not going to change), but protect yourself by using natural sunblock and eating a diet full of fruits and vegetables. Report
My daughter was a swimmer and is now a lifeguard during the summer. Using sunscreen has always been drilled into her. She spends the whole summer outside in the sun and is always careful about wearing sunscreen and drinking plenty of water when it is really hot. Report
When I was growing up my grandpa had skin cancers all over his face and they were ugly but I was smarter than him or so I thought. Everything was about getting a tan back then and we didn't care what happened later in life. Now I am scared that I am going to get skin cancer from the exposure I have had in my life. I haven't been checked but I know I have had too much sun. We even used baby oil to get a better tan. My kids are much smarter than I was, they use sunscreen whenever they are going to be outside for more than 15 minutes. Report
Maybe being an overweight teen has it's advantages! I didn't lay in the sun much because I felt "like a beached whale"! And I hate to sweat so I don't put myself in a position of being out there in the blistering sun very much. I am often told that I don't look my age at all (almost 64) and I attribute it to all the time I've spent avoiding the sun. Report
When I was young the only people who used lotion were those who wanted that Coppertone tan, while we played at the surf all day with our tender skin exposed and turning brown. Fast-forward, at age 40 I was diagnosed with melanoma. I had been protecting my skin for 20+ years at that point but my doctor stated sun exposure is accumulative. Every exposure adds to all previous and my cancer probably came from my childhood days. I also live in an area with some iron in the water so any sun screen with avobenzene as an active ingredient causes my clothes to turn orange. What to do? Use zinc oxide and titaniuim dioxide as in the formualtions for babies. And sunblock clothes! There are several good companies (my favorite is Coolibar) who offer clothes with 50+spf. I love it. They may seem more expensive than similar clothes, but I always say it is cheaper than a skin biopsy! There is a youtube video called "Dear 16 year-old me." that is directed to teens which I think is great. Please view and share it. It could save someone's life you love. Report
My husband would never wear a cap outside even though he had "thinning" hair on top, but now at 65 he's had to have his scalp checked as he has some "troubling" spots. Report
It just has to be part of their daily routine. The non-greasy spray-ons are great, so long as you don't miss large swathes! Report
I can't get my husband to care about sun screen! Report
Yeah, skin cancer doesn't care if we don't know... Report
We were fortunate that our kids were taught in the good old days. They were taughtlong ago that too much sun would damage your skin. After an educator told 6th graders they could get Cancer later in life, parents called it parental interference and son #3 had to learn it from his brothers. We aere raised in England and it was never an issue in our youth we never thought about SunTans it was always known as sun burn, that phrase probably helped Sun Burn=BAD, Sun Tan = GOOD Sun Screen was nonexistent way back then Pat in Maine where we are deficient in Vitamin D ! Report
I would be a liar if I said I used it but then I live in Canada and I also generally avoid the sun also I come from a darker skinned Northern English family so I can only remember burning twice in my whole lifetime. I generally don't remember to use it although I probably should. Report
Too bad Teens don't realize the affects of the sun on their they AGE!
I used to use suntan lotion as a teen, today I use SUNSCREEN.....but at 67, the affects of my teens years is quiet evident with all my ages spots!!!! Report
I'm very fair-skinned. live in Florida, and can only tan slightly. I agree with JILLITA55's comment about showing them the bad results of too much sun. However, I would add that teens always think they are indestructible and often even rebel at things they are told that they should do (just witness the smoking teens outside my local mall!) So, I would add that you should not emphasize the 'don't do it', but rather point out (inconspicuously) people with wrinkles and/or age spots and say 'Oh, look what too much sun did to him/her' as well as pictures, movie and TV characters. etc.

Oh, and your comment on training your little ones is great and will likely lead to skin & sun-conscious teens, but for those with teenagers already it might be too late to make sunscreen a habit. Report
I adore tanning and I always will.I have been a sun-worshiper for decades and am often mistaken for being ten years younger than I am. No signs of skin cancer either. I use sunscreen on my face only. The media has given the sun bad press; there are many benefits to sun exposure. Moderation is the key. Report
I don't think we will get our teens and children to understand the importance of sunscreen until we as adults understand the importance. The old motto "do what I say not what I do" does not work. We must set an example for them. Report
I don't think you can convince them. Young people think they're immortal and bad things happen to other people. Report
How do we get teens to stop tanning ? We have to convince them (along with many adults) that a sun tan isn't an indication of a "healthy glow". There is still a misconception that having pale skin means a person is sick. And that having a tan means you're an outdoorsy, active type of person.

That's what we thought when I was a teen, back in the Dark Ages. And unfortunately, that's what they still think today. You'll start to change attitudes towards sunscreen when the fashion industry along with the fitness industry promote pale skin as beautiful.

I don't even want to think of the damage I did to my skin as a teen. I too believed that having a tan meant I was healthy.
As a girl raised in the Texas sun with iodine and baby oil and two time melanoma survivor.....sunscreen is the best gift you can give your children!! Report
I was in the dermatologists office waiting for my son and I picked up one of those brochures and I read it. It said in its scolding tone that we must never step out our front door without our sunscreen applied ... even to go to the mailbox. AND we should read the label on the sunscreen carefully and follow the instructions.

I picked up a bottle that the doctor had in the lobby and I carefully read the instructions: "Apply thirty minutes before first exposure to the sun." It then gave reapplications instructions that sounded to me more like "Please use up this bottle before your day at the beach is over and purchase two so you have enough."

When the doctor called me in, expained my son's progress, and asked if I had any questions. No, all that was straight forward. But ...

I asked if I could ask something about this brochure. "It seems like I have to plan a trip to the mailbox as if I am going on Safari according to this," the brochure, "and this," the sunscreen bottle.

"You know? You are probably the first client who has noticed that. And you are not wrong. But without strict warnings people would spend entire days at the beach with no sunscreen. So they go a little overboard." Report
I've diligently slathered sunscreen on my children since they were infants. My daughter is now 12. We moved to the beach last year and she goes to the beach and pools with her friends often. She has "forgotten" to apply her sunscreen on more than one occasion. She has naturally golden skin so she doesn't burn easily (like my fair skinned son). I've explained to her the importance of using it and told her that, like being where she says she's going to be, doing what's expected, and not doing what she knows she shouldn't, being responsible in protecting her skin also plays into whether or not we can trust her to go with her friends. It's just as important as not smoking. Report
There are some fun sunscreens - the sticks and spray ons. And maybe impress (?) them with the fact that their skin is their largest organ so we really need to take care of it. It's what keeps all our "stuff" inside. Report
There are sunscreens that aren't so greasy. And the spray on sunscreens can make it quick to put on wiggly little ones. Just put it on more often. Report
Too much sun can cause cancer. Scare them with that. Find some pictures of people who have had too much sun. Wrinkles wrinkles and more wrinkles. Report