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High School Students Get Too Much Sun

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

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May 3, 2002 -- Hanging out after class and during sports, high school kids get too much sun, enough to put them at risk of skin cancer later, a new study shows.

For 11 days, four high school students wore wrist meters to measure UVB ray exposure, the primary cause of sunburn and skin cancer.

"What we found is that UVB exposure levels that were measured during the regular daily activities of these high school students could cause sunburn in some students," says dermatologist Darrell S. Rigel, MD, clinical professor of New York University Medical Center, in a news release.

He presented his findings at the American Academy of Dermatology's Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention monthly news conference.

"But even darker-skinned students who are not as high risk for sunburn need to be concerned because chronic exposure to UVB still can cause damage to the skin over time and possibly lead to skin cancer developing later in life," Rigel says.

While UVB exposure was higher for sunny days, exposure was also significant on cloudy days. "Since sunburns during adolescence increase later melanoma risk, this finding is of particular concern," he says.

Highest exposure occurred when students went outside after lunch. No UVB measurements were taken during school sports activities. However, "students engaged in organized sports in school would be expected to be exposed to higher UV levels," Rigel says.

Though teens know that sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, too often they don't protect themselves, he says.

Better programs are needed in schools to encourage students to wear hats, sunscreen, and shades, says Rigel.

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