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Teens still dying for a tan

Teens still dying for a tan

Teens continue to ignore skin cancer risks, with new research showing nearly two in five likely to sunbathe without using sunscreen.

Auckland, 12 November 2007 -- Despite over 300 New Zealanders dying from skin cancer each year, new research has revealed widespread risk taking among young New Zealanders, with 37 percent happy to burn their way to a tan.

A national survey of 292 under 30s conducted by MoleMap and independent research company TNS recently found a history of sunburn that is likely to be repeated, despite medical studies showing sunburn doubling the risk of melanoma.

The tanned looked is attractive to over half (57%) of young New Zealanders, and more so among 15-to-19 year old females (67%). However, it is the reckless manner teens go about getting their tan that is most disturbing.

Over three quarters admit to being sunburnt while sunbathing over the last two years, with 58 percent conceding that it happened “once or twice” and close to one in five (18%) admitting to being regularly sunburnt. And while 63% are unlikely to sunbathe without using sunscreen, the same conviction among 15-to-19 year olds withered to just over half (54%).

MoleMap CEO Adrian Bowling says he was compelled to undertake the research when a recent audit showed MoleMap was detecting melanoma at approximately 20 times the rate that would be expected for average kiwis.

“It is widely acknowledged that the two leading causes of melanoma are genetics and overexposure to the sun’s rays, especially in our younger years. With summer’s onset, we wanted to see the extent to which attitudes towards the sun and tanning might be linked to the large number of melanomas we are diagnosing,” he says.

Bowling suspects that part of the reason behind teen attitudes is based on a perception that melanoma is an “old person’s” disease, with detection most common among 40 and 50 year olds. However, he says 80 to 90 percent of sun-related damage leading to melanoma occurs before the age of 18.

Bowling says that while sunburn is bad, people should not avoid all sunshine, which is critical for the biosynthesis of vitamin D. “Just get your 15 minutes worth before 10 am or after four pm.”

And contrary to popular belief, people with dark skin are not immune from the sun’s harmful rays. “The longer you stay in the sun, the greater your risk of getting skin cancer, regardless of skin colour,” he says.

Bowling recommends regularly self-checking skin for changes and booking an annual skin examination with a medical professional. MoleMap is the only New Zealand melanoma surveillance programme, which includes total body photography, digital dermoscopy and dermatologist diagnosis.


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