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Counseling children about skin cancer important, but rarely done

More pediatricians should counsel children and their parents about preventing skin cancer, according to dermatology researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. A review of research literature confirmed that prevention should begin in childhood, yet found that the topic is discussed at less than 1 percent of well-child visits.

"Children should be encouraged to use sunscreen, wear appropriate clothing and avoid both the strongest midday sun levels and indoor tanning," said Mandeep Kaur, M.D., instructor in the Department of Dermatology. "Skin cancer is the most rapidly growing cause of cancer deaths in the United States, and childhood sun exposure increases the risk."

The researchers reviewed the research literature on ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer in order to familiarize pediatricians with the magnitude of the skin cancer problem and the evidence that exposure to UV light, particularly indoor tanning, is a risk factor. Their article appears in the current issue of Pediatric Dermatology.

"Pediatricians can play an important role in counseling patients and educating them about skin cancer," said Steven Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., senior researcher. "There is strong evidence for the relationship between UV exposure and non-melanoma skin cancer and growing evidence for the relationship between indoor tanning and melanoma."

UV light occurs naturally in sunlight and is responsible for the tanning and burning effects of the sun. Artificial UV light is used in tanning beds and sunlamps. There are two types of UV light A and B. UVB is several orders of magnitude stronger in producing sunburns, tanning and damage to cells than UVA.

The composition of natural sunlight on a sunny day is about 90 percent to 95 percent UVA and 5 percent to 10 percent UVB. Newer sunlamps and tanning beds (manufactured after 1970) typically emit 0.5 percent to 5 percent UVB radiation. Older units can produce 22 percent to 44 percent UV
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
13-Feb-2006


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