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Tanning Still in Style With U.S. Teens

Messages about skin cancer are having little impact, survey shows

SATURDAY, Sept. 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- American teens are getting slightly better at using sunscreen but have failed to adopt other sun-protection habits and continue to get too many sunburns, according to research from the American Cancer Society.

Most teens still think a tan reflects good looks and good health, the survey found. The findings were published in the September issue of Pediatrics.

Researchers compared nationally representative polls of U.S. youngsters, aged 11 to 18, conducted in 1998 and 2004.

In 2004, 69 percent of the respondents reported having been sunburned during the summer, compared with 72 percent in 1998. There was a significant decrease between 1998 and 2004 in the percentage of younger teens (aged 11 to 15) who reported sunburns and a non-significant increase among those aged 16 to 18.

Between 1998 and 2004, the percentage of teens who reported regular sunscreen use increased from 31 percent to 39 percent, but there was little change in the use of other methods of sun protection.

In 2004, 21.7 percent of teens reported seeking shade when out in the sun; 22.8 percent said they wore protective clothing; 32 percent used sunglasses; and 5 percent reported wearing wide-brimmed hats.

The study also found a significant increase in the number of days teens spent at the beach -- from 6.7 days in 1998 to 10.3 days in 2004.

"Our study showed that despite widespread sun protection campaigns, there has been only a small reduction in sunburn frequency and modest increases in sun protection practices among youth between 1998 and 2004," study leader Vilma Cokkinides, an American Cancer Society epidemiologist, said in a prepared statement.

"Nevertheless, the decrease in sunburns among younger teens may be cause for optimism regarding future trends," she said. "Skin cancer prevention programs in the U.S. need to be strengthened in order to impact these trends."

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers sun safety tips.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, Sept. 4, 2006
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