By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – To pre-teens, being tan seems to be more important than being safe.

“The preteen age group is really the classic age group for not caring about the future,” Dr. Robin Gehris, a dermatologist at Children’s Hospital Pittsburgh, said.  “Sadly, we’re seeing an increase in melanoma, both in kids and in young adults.”

“We never really thought about sunscreen or anything, going to the beach and as i got older i went to tanning beds,” Colleen McDonald said. “I don’t even remember how many biopsies. I’ve had five melanoma surgeries.”

A study in the journal Pediatrics shows many kids may be on the same track. A total of 360 10-year-olds were surveyed about sunburns, how much time they spent in the sun, and how often they wore sunscreen. They were asked again three years later.

Half of them wore sunscreen at the beginning. This dropped to a quarter at the end. Most of them said they liked the look of a suntan.

But tans, freckles, and eventually wrinkles and cancer are the ravages of the sun.

“Start talking to them about look how much prettier this person’s skin looks because it’s not highly freckled, and freckles are really a sign of sun damage,” Dr. Gehris said. “If they still feel that social need to be tan, despite that fact that no one thinks that looks healthy anymore, there are the self-tanning lotions.”

Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen every day, even in the winter.

“Even in the winter time you can easily get burned on a sunny day with sun reflecting off snow,” Dr. Gehris said.

If you instill healthy habits at a young age — just like brushing teeth and wearing seatbelts — your kids may be uncomfortable stopping those habits in adolescence.

“If you create a routine for your kids, where again, it’s right in front of them, they don’t have to go out of their way, you may actually set them up for better success,” Dr. Gehris said.

In another study, it turns out kids are more likely to use sunscreen if it comes from a pump top bottle, rather than from a bottle with a press top, screw on cap, or roll on.


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