TEENAGERS have mixed attitudes towards tanned skin and many still view sunbeds as harmless.
Most adolescents, however, do have a good level of awareness of sun protection and the risks associated with UV exposure, a Manchester Metropolitan University researcher discovered.
But some youngsters thought a sunbed didn’t pose a risk despite campaigns warning teenagers and a recent law change, upping the age limit to 18.
Researchers have now advised that schoolchildren should be taught UV awareness and sun protection as part of the PSHE curriculum, in their paper published in the British Journal of School Nursing.
The authors, including MMU Professor Sarah Grogan who supervised the work, believe educating pupils now will help to cut rates of skin cancer later in life.
Professor Grogan said: “The adolescents who took part in our study were aware of the dangers of UV exposure, but many were ambivalent about using sunscreen, seeing it as greasy, sticky, and inconvenient.
“There is a need for additional work in schools to stress the fact that tanned skin is not necessarily more attractive and that UV exposure can lead to serious health problems. We really need to be encouraging adolescents to use sunscreen.”
Prof Grogan conducted the research with colleagues from Staffordshire University, collecting data from 227 11 to 14-year-old youngsters at a British secondary school.
Previous studies have found that teenagers are bombarded with images of tanned celebrities by the media.
However, the children in Professor Grogan’s study had complex and sometimes conflicting attitudes towards the benefits of having a tan.
“Some of the children were negative about having pale skin although they knew that sun exposure was risky,” added Prof Grogan.
The researchers found that teenagers endorsed having tans but could not express why they felt that a tan was a good thing, while many of the youngsters knew that using sun protection could halt sunburn and skin cancer, having learned from the previous bad experiences of family and friends.
The study concluded that teenagers had mixed attitudes towards the advantages and disadvantages of having tanned skin, and more could be done to inform them in schools about harmful UV rays and sun protection.
To read the paper, log on to: http://www.internurse.com/cgi-bin/go.pl/library/article.cgi?uid=101722;article=BJSN_8_9_436_441;format=pdf.
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