At least half of 10 year olds report experiencing sunburn in the past year and, as they hit their teen years, they report spending more unprotected time in the sun to get a tan, according to a study published online Jan. 23 in Pediatrics.
Stephen W. Dusza, PhD, from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from a prospective, population-based study of 360 fifth-grade children (about 10 years of age) from Framingham, Mass. Surveys administered at baseline (September to October 2004) and three years later (September to October 2007) were analyzed to assess the prevalence of sunburn and sun behaviors.
The researchers found that, at baseline, approximately 53 percent of the students reported having at least one sunburn during the previous summer. This proportion remained steady in 2007 (55 percent; P= 0.79). Over the study period there was a significant increase in liking a tan and spending time outside to get a tan. While 50 percent of students reported "often or always" using sunscreen when outside for at least six hours in the summer in 2004, at the follow-up evaluation, this proportion dropped to 25 percent.
"With at least 50 percent of children experiencing sunburns before age 11 and again three years later, targeting children in pediatric offices and community settings regarding unprotected ultraviolet exposure may be a practical approach," the authors write.
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For more information on sun protection in adolescents, read "What's on the Horizon in Tanning Bed Legislation? It Depends on You!"