Did you know that up to 80% of our exposure to the sun’s rays occurs before the age of 18? Have you heard that one out of two Australians will develop skin cancer, that Swiss teenagers prefer to tan than to protect themselves from the sun, or that young Saudi Arabians suffer from vitamin D deficiency? You always learn fascinating things when digging through the open access articles available on MSW. On the subject of tanning at the beach, there were plenty of fish in the sea.
Cet article existe également en francais : Pourquoi faut-il protéger les jeunes du soleil ?
Marina Beach, India
Here is some useful info taken from three scientific articles published in open access and available on MyScienceWork. It is served up for you on a platter after an intense exploration that I carried out from the comfort of my own desk.
« Acute skin Sun Damage in children and its consequences in adults », Nives Pustisek et al., Department of Reproductive Health, Children’s Hospital Zagreb, Medical School, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
Exposure to the sun’s rays increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Maybe you knew that already. What we’re less aware of is the fact that the younger we are, the more we’re exposed to these rays:
“The negative effects of solar radiation are accumulated during the entire lifetime ; however 80% of total lifetime sun exposure is taking place before the age of 18 years.”
In children, the natural defense mechanisms that protect the skin are not fully developed, leaving it more sensitive to UV rays. So, the time you spent as a child gamboling through the fields or, as an adolescent, tanning on the beach will have consequences for health risks as an adult.
“Epidemiologic studies show a higher incidence of malignant melanoma in persons with a history of sunburns during childhood and adolescence.”
However, in general, skin cancer is easy to prevent:
“The awareness of the harmful effect of the sun and the correct protection from the early age may prevent 4 out of 5 cases of skin carcinoma.”
Parents, children, you’ve been warned: investing in the future first means wearing a hat and shirt at the beach.
Why are teens particularly affected ?
« Young People and Sun Safety: The Role of Attitudes, Norms and Control Factors », Robinson, Natalie G. et al., Promotion Journal of Australia, 2008.
Let’s take Australia as an example. UV rays are a serious problem for the locals, due especially to the big hole in the ozone layer above the southern continent:
"Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in Australia. For Australians, this translates into approximately 380,000 cases of skin cancer annually, with at least one in every two Australians being diagnosed with skin cancer."
Young Australians are informed of this danger, by guilt-inducing videos, for example, but don’t protect themselves:
1) because they’re slackers, and
2) because their friends and families don’t push them to do it every morning:
"The research suggests a consideration of the approval of friends and family and barriers such as forgetting and laziness in understanding the sun safety decision making process of young people."
« Sun protective behaviour of primary and secondary school students in North-Western Switzerland », Daphne Reinau et al., Swiss Medical Weekly, 2012.
This phenomenon is not limited to long-maned surfers. In Switzerland, too, puberty seems to act on the ability to protect oneself from the sun:
“Although the oldest students achieved the highest knowledge scores, they protected themselves the least from the sun compared with the younger study participants.”
Why? Why not seek out the shade, or put on a hat, like everyone else? Well, especially because these teens want to tan:
“25.7% of 6th graders and 38.4% of 9th graders stated that it was worth getting slightly burned to get a good tan.”
Why, at the same time, do you have to put your kids outside now and then ?
« Effect of physical activity and sun exposure on vitamin D status of Saudi children and adolescents », Al-Othman et al. BMC Pediatrics 201212:92
Let’s head back to more desert-like climes. In Saudi Arabia, it’s hot and the sun is strong. This situation is not new: Saudis are aware of it and take the necessary measures.
« Saudis usually limit the time they spend outdoors during the daytime. In summer months, for example, parents do not allow their children to engage in outdoor activities during daytime."
But watch out for excess in the opposite direction: exposure to a moderate dose of certain UV rays is necessary for the production of vitamin D, which is also useful for preventing certain cancers.
“The important findings of this study reveal that vitamin D deficiency in children and adolescents is very common in Saudi Arabia […] and is associated with lack of physical activity and sun exposure.”
- Before the age of 18, the skin is very sensitive to US rays.
- Adolescents are lazy.
- Staying cooped up inside is not a good idea, either.