High-Risk Alert: Sun Protection Tips for Teens

Jul 1, 2013


It's never too early to start protecting yourself against sun damage — and if you are a teenager, this advice is especially important.

"It only takes one blistering sunburn to increase your risk of skin cancer. Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma. Although more adults are using sunscreens during outdoor activities, many are unaware of how important it is to make sure that their children are getting the necessary skin protection," says Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a dermatologist and director of the Skin and Laser Center at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

Teenage girls should be particularly careful, since melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, is the most common cancer in young women between the ages of 25 and 29. Much of the damage from the sun in these young women will already have occurred in their teens.

Dr. Gmyrek recommends the following guidelines to help protect teens and tweens from the harmful effects of the sun:

  • Use self-tanning creams. Tanning beds are not good for anyone. Teenagers and young adults looking to get that perfect tan should use tanning creams to get a safe summer glow.
  • Be wary of freckles. If you develop freckles on your skin, this may be a sign of sustained sun damage. Freckles generally develop in sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest and arms, and they are more likely to develop in fair-skinned people with blonde or red hair.
  • Apply sunscreen generously. Teens should apply sunscreen to the entire surface of their body about 30 minutes before going outside and after swimming or sweating. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two to four hours. Be sure the SPF of the sunscreen is 30 or higher and that it has both UVA- and UVB-absorbing/blocking ingredients, which is also labeled as "broad spectrum" sunscreen.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing. There are several companies today that market SPF-rated clothing. These articles of clothing offer full protection and the freedom of not having to reapply sunscreen in the covered areas. However, not all clothing protects from the sun. And repeated washings cause the fabric to become thinner and looser, offering less protection.
  • Minimize exposure to the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen, everyone should seek the shade, wear hats and sunglasses, and use umbrellas when appropriate.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,409 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including 12,797 deliveries and 195,294 visits to its emergency departments. NewYork-Presbyterian's 6,144 affiliated physicians and 19,376 staff provide state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

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