Dr. Walt's Health Blog

Only 25% of kids use sunscreen regularly

The Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog reports that “kids are really bad about using sunscreen consistently,” according to a study published in Pediatrics.

“Researchers studied fifth-grade children in Massachusetts in 2004 and then re-surveyed the same 360 children three years later. In the first survey, more than half of the kids said they had experienced at least one sunburn, and this rate did not change three years later.”

“Despite numerous efforts to encourage people to wear sunscreen, a new study shows only 1 in 4 children regularly uses sunscreen,” WebMD reports. “The results showed that half of the children reported routinely wearing sunscreen in 2004, but only 25% did so in 2007.”

The article adds, “Researchers say the results show that the time between ages 11 and 14 is a critical time in developing attitudes about tanning and wearing sunscreen, especially among girls.”

ABC News points out, “Most of the study participants said they liked the appearance of a tan, and the number of children who said they spent time in the sun to get a tan increased over the three-year period.”

Lead author Stephen Dusza, said, “At the same time, there was a signficant reduction in reported sunscreen use.”

Notably, “Dusza and dermatologists not involved in the research said the findings highlight the importance of finding effective ways to educate children of this impressionable age group about sun safety and the potential dangers of excessive exposure to ultraviolet light.”

“Half of a group of fifth-graders did not ‘often or always’ use sunscreen when outdoors for prolonged periods of time. Follow-up interviews three years later showed that regular use of sunscreen had declined to 25%,” MedPage Today adds. “For both surveys, a majority of the study participants reported at least one sunburn within the previous year.”

HealthDay quotes the study authors, who wrote, “The years of ‘periadolescence’ covered by the study (ages 11 to 14) appear to be ‘a crucial period’ when young people often either ‘increase or decrease their use of sun protection, obtain sunburns, or change their tan-promoting attitudes.’”

They also noted, “Adolescence and teenage years are tremendously difficult because it is a period of flexing independence, coupled with feelings of invincibility.”

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