It’s never too early to start protecting yourself against sun damage, and if you are a teenage girl this message is especially important.
“Even one blistering sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer. As few as five sunburns can double your risk of skin cancer,” says Dr. Anjali Dahiya, a dermatologist at the Iris Cantor Women’s Health Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Teenage girls should be particularly careful, since melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, is the most common cancer in young women between the ages of 25 and 29. Much of the damage from the sun in these young women will already have occurred in their teens.
“Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma. Although more adults are using sunscreens during outdoor activities, many are unaware of how important it is to make sure that their children are getting the necessary skin protection,” says Dr. Desiree Ratner, director of dermatologic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.
Drs. Dahiya and Ratner recommend the following guidelines to help protect teens and tweens from the harmful effects of the sun:
•Use self-tanning creams. Tanning beds are not good for anyone. Teenagers and young adults looking to get that perfect tan should use tanning creams to get a safe summer glow.
•Be wary of freckles. If you develop freckles on your skin, this may be a sign of sustained sun damage. Freckles generally develop in sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest, and arms, and are more likely to develop in fair-skinned people with blonde or red hair.
•Apply sunscreen generously. Teens and tweens should apply sunscreen to the entire surface of their body about 30 minutes before going outside; if they are swimming, they should reapply once they are out of the water. Be sure the SPF of the sunscreen is 30 or higher, and that it has both UVA and UVB blocking ingredients.
•Minimize exposure to the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen, everyone should be guarding against the sun with hats, sunglasses and umbrellas when appropriate.