The summer months are prime time for annual well visits and sports physicals, as the hectic pace of the school year yields to the only slightly less hectic pace of the summer. During these healthy check ups, you will inevitably field complaints about various warm weather skin conditions, from insect bites to sunburns. You can find tips for treating several common summer ailments in this issue (p. 22).
Perhaps more important than providing relief from these skin complaints, pediatricians can use the summer months to reinvigorate their efforts to educate patients about the importance of sun protection and UV avoidance. It’s a message many young people—and their parents—evidently still need to hear.
According to a recent survey by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD, aad.org) a sizable majority (86 percent) of teens and young adults who used a tanning bed in the previous year said they knew that using artificial tanning could cause cancer. Yet they tanned anyway. The primary reason for tanning may be a desire to look better. A very high percentage of tanners (87 percent) said they think people look more attractive with a tan, and 66 percent of all teens surveyed agreed that a tan looks attractive.
Those who tan indoors may be following a bad example. When asked if anyone in their immediate or extended families uses a tanning bed, indoor tanners were more than twice as likely to say they have a family member who uses a tanning bed (65 percent) compared to non-indoor tanners (28 percent). Specifically, 42 percent of indoor tanners said that their moms use tanning beds, compared to only 10 percent of non-tanners.
There’s no simple strategy for convincing patients not to tan...indoors or out. The long-term risks of skin cancer and skin aging don’t seem to deter some teens from tanning. Still, the apparent uphill battle is worth the effort, and it needs to start with the youngest patients. You never know when the consistent reminders of their pediatrician will help a young person remember to wear sunscreen, choose sun protective clothing, and avoid indoor tanning beds.
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