health campaigns encourage people to protect themselves from the risk of
developing skin cancer, but people of all ages continue to overexpose
themselves to harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun.
Teenagers and young adults are also exposed to UVR in tanning salons.
Rates of skin cancer – including melanoma, the most serious form of
skin cancer – continue to rise, even in young people.
A new American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement and corresponding
technical report, “Ultraviolet Radiation: a Hazard to Children and Adolescents
,” published in the March 2011 print issue of Pediatrics
online Feb. 28), offer guidance to parents and pediatricians on skin
cancer prevention and safe sun exposure practices. Lifelong sun
protection is recommended starting at an early age. Education about
UVR exposure is important for all children, especially those at high
risk for developing skin cancer: children with light skin and eyes,
who freckle or sunburn easily, or have a family history of melanoma.
Pediatricians should advise children, parents and teens about the
dangers of UVR exposure.
Recommendations include wearing proper
clothing and hats, timing outdoor activities to minimize peak midday
sun (10 am-4 pm) when possible, applying sunscreen, and wearing
sunglasses. Infants younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct
sunlight and protected with clothing and hats.
The use of tanning
salons is a common practice among teenagers, especially females. In a
national survey, 24 percent of non-Hispanic white teenagers 13 to 19
years of age used a tanning facility at least once. The intensity of
UVR radiation produced by some tanning units can be 10 to 15 times
higher than the midday sun. Along with the World Health Organization,
the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of
Dermatology, the AAP supports legislation prohibiting access to
tanning salons or use of artificial tanning devices by children under
the age of 18.
The American Academy of
Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians,
pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists
dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children,
adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.