Skin cancer awareness must start in childhood, say US scientists

In collaboration with the Press Association

People experience half their total lifetime exposure to sunlight before they are 18 but not enough is being done to educate children about skin cancer risks, say scientists.

"Children should be encouraged to use sunscreen, wear appropriate clothing and avoid both the strongest midday sun levels and indoor tanning," said dermatologist Dr Mandeep Kaur.

"Our review clearly showed that the prevention of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer needs to begin in childhood," added Dr Kaur.

Research by the US Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre has also found that skin cancer prevention is mentioned in less than one per cent of doctors' visits to children.

"Paediatricians can play an important role in counselling patients and educating them about skin cancer," said senior researcher Dr Steven Feldman.

"There is strong evidence for the relationship between UV exposure and non-melanoma skin cancer and growing evidence for the relationship between indoor tanning and melanoma."

American cancer research has estimated that in the US melanoma accounts for only four per cent of skin cancer cases but 79 per cent of skin cancer fatalities.

Sara Hiom, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, added, "Melanoma rates in the UK are increasing faster than any other major cancer".

"We welcome the findings of the American research and recognise the need to target sun awareness information to younger people.

"Cancer Research UK?s SunSmart campaign has targeted this age group, and their carers, in previous years," she added.