High School = High Risk? Study Suggests Today’s Teenagers Are At Elevated Risk For Skin Cancer Later In Life

With skin cancer such a pervasive problem in the U.S., several health care organizations have stepped up their research and awareness efforts this year, in order to call greater attention to the importance of protection from the sun.


The American Academy of Dermatology, for instance, is working to call attention to rates of skin cancer and disease among teenagers, through a recently released survey that examined their sun-protection habits and suggested that high rates of skin cancer and other skin diseases in people over 50 could be the result of dangerous attitudes toward protection earlier in life.

According to Dr. Darrell S. Rigel, a New York-based dermatologist and member of the American Academy of Dermatology, poor habits, particularly during teenage years, are being seen to result in some of the highest incidences of skin problems later in life, particularly in white males.

Rigel said that all teenagers are at risk for long-term sun damage, however.

“Without a doubt, teenagers are always the hardest demographic to reach with any health warning,” he said. “They don’t equate their bad behavior in the present with bad things happening to them later in life as a consequence. Skin cancer is no exception.”

In fact, the Academy reports that recently, American physicians have coined the term ‘tanorexics’ to describe teenagers that put themselves at risk for skin cancer as they chase the perfect skin color, calling attention to the scope of the problem.

When it comes to boys vs. girls, the Academy’s research has found, said Rigel, that “while boys are more careless, the survey found there are interesting differences between boys and girls when it comes to heeding our advice.”

Older teenage boys were the least vigilant compared to younger boys and girls of all ages. But boys were also less likely to use tanning beds than girls, who, the Academy reported, tend to use the beds to get a tan for a special occasion, such as a wedding or prom.

Boys also fared better than girls in one respect: the number of instances wearing hats when outdoors, a practice actively condoned by several organizations including the American Red Cross and American Cancer Society.

Though not the typically recommended wide-brimmed variety (boys tend to sport baseball caps most frequently), all hats do offer some protection, Rigel said.