Many Adolescents Fail to Use Adequate Sun Protection

Carolyn Drake

Just a quarter of adolescents surveyed for a new study reported wearing sunscreen when out in the sun for extended periods of time, and over half reported suffering a sunburn during the previous summer.

Just a quarter of adolescents surveyed for a new study reported wearing sunscreen when out in the sun for extended periods of time, and over half reported suffering a sunburn during the previous summer.

The researchers analyzed data collected through a prospective, population-based study involving 360 fifth-grade children from Framingham, Mass. The children responded to two surveys—one in 2004 and another three years later—assessing their behavior in the sun and prevalence of reported sunburn.

The portion of study participants who reported “liking a tan,” increased from 53 percent in 2004 to 66 percent in 2007. Likewise, the portion who reported spending time in the sun in order to get a tan increased from 21.8 percent in 2004 to 39.8 percent in 2007.

At the same time, 50 percent of participants reported that they “often or always” used sunscreen when they spent at least six hours outside in the summer in 2004, but just 25 percent reported this by 2007. The portion of participants who reported having a least one sunburn during the previous summer increased slightly, from 53 perecnt in 2004 to 55 percent in 2007.

“The observation that more than 50% of the children received sunburns in both the summers of 2004 and 2007 is troublesome,” the authors write in the study. They suggest that “efforts should be made to intensify current sun-protection programs while devising new and creative messages for children of this age, especially because the use of tanning beds, particularly for girls, begins at age 14.”

The study was published online yesterday in Pediatrics.