Melanoma is one of the two most common cancers of young Americans, and children who have had a sunburn at an early age are at almost double the risk for developing melanoma in adulthood. The study, "Prospective Study of Sunburn and Sun Behavior Patterns During Adolescence," in the February 2012 Pediatrics (published online Jan. 23) examined data for 360 children in Massachusetts and found that at least 50 percent of those children experienced sunburns before age 11. The authors followed up with the group three years later and found that rates of sunburn remained high. Sun behaviors also changed; the older teens reported spending more time in the sun and using less sunscreen. In fact, half the children using sunscreen routinely at the beginning of the study no longer did so three years later, and only 25 percent of the children in the sample were still using sunscreen routinely at the follow-up evaluation. The authors conclude that further studies are needed to learn how to promote sun protection in settings such as beaches, after-school sites and sporting events. This is especially true for adolescents who are developing tan-promoting behaviors.
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