The optimal age range to teach youths about the dangers of ultraviolet radiation from the sun is between 10 and 24, according to new draft recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
"For children, adolescents, and young adults ages 10 to 24 years, adequate evidence suggests that counseling interventions that are available in a primary care setting or are referable from primary care can increase the use of sun-protective behaviors by a moderate amount," the recommendations state.
And while skin cancer is still a risk for people older than age 24, the USPSTF said that there isn't enough evidence that risk counseling actually works for that age group.
The recommendations also note that people with fair skin have the highest health risks from the sun's UV rays and tanning.
WebMD pointed out that for this adolescent and young adult age group, it's more effective to warn of the effects of tanning on appearance than to warn of the risk of skin cancer from tanning.
"Ten- to 12-year-old children are very aware of how they look and most of the counseling methods that work are appearance based," Dr. Virginia A. Moyer, who is the chair of the USPSTF panel, told WebMD. "If you tell a teenager that she needs to wear a long-sleeved shirt on a hot day because she may get cancer in the future, it doesn't resonate as much as if you tell them they will develop wrinkles and start to look older than they are."
Dr. Holly Phillips, a general internist, told The Early Show that a lot of skin damage is done during childhood and adolescence.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the results of previous research showing that 83 percent of adolescents got a sunburn over the last summer, while only 34 percent of them said they used sunscreen.