How to Discuss Skin Cancer Prevention with Your Teen

Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to discuss how more and more teenagers are developing the mentality that a tan is far more attractive than having pale skin. Although a fresh tan symbolizes healthy, glowing skin and an active lifestyle, there are still several dangers to excessive sun exposure. In fact, striving for this heavily idealized look can raise the risk of developing skin cancer.

To make matters worse, teenagers are quite notorious for refusing to heed the necessary precautions to prevent skin cancer. Some teens maintain a strict regimen wherein they apply tanning lotions to achieve a bronze-like skin tone, and yet they choose to ignore the role of sunscreen application in skin cancer prevention.

As parents, grownups, or someone with authority over teenagers, you are partly responsible for talking to your children about protecting themselves against harmful ultraviolet rays.

High-Risk Group for Skin Cancer

The risk of skin damage and skin cancer is associated with the number of sunburns a person experiences throughout his or her lifetime. Additionally, the following physical characteristics also increase the risk of skin damage and skin cancer:

  • Fair skin
  • Freckles
  • Blond or red hair
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Moles

Although the risk for skin damage and skin cancer is relatively higher in people with lighter skin, people who have darker skin are also at stake and must take the necessary precautions to reduce lifetime exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays — both of which are associated with an increased risk for skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the disease is often higher in men, with statistics showing that males are 55 percent more likely to die from melanoma compared to women. Thus, it is crucial for all teens to be self-aware about skin cancer and how to prevent it.

How to Talk to Teens About Preventing Cancers of the Skin

Being a teen during the summertime is all about getting some sun and having a good tan. However, if they slack on protecting themselves from the sun’s UV light, the consequences can be dire.

For parents, guardians, and adults of authority, it is important to consider that your teen might be more interested in listening to the risks of early skin aging as opposed to the chances of them developing cancer of the skin. In this case, you can explain that even if he or she is not in a high-risk group for cancer, the skin is susceptible to aging much quicker unless they wear sunscreen and limit their tanning sessions.

Below are a few suggestions on how you can address sun safety with the teen in your life:

1. Explain the harmful effects of sun exposure

Knowing the statistics can be useful in helping your teen understand why it’s important to practice sun safety today rather than later. Since the idea of having flawless skin consumes most teens in this time and age, you should note one of the leading risk factors for skin damage, premature skin aging, and skin cancer is exposure to UV light from the sun. In fact, up to 20 percent of all Americans will develop skin cancer sometime in their lifetime. Aside from direct sunlight, using tanning beds and tanning lamps also increase their risk for skin cancer. The American Cancer Society even adds that melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults.

2. Speak their language and mention relevant role models

The media, Hollywood, and celebrities profoundly influence the lives of many teenagers. While discussing skin cancer with your teen, try referencing celebrities diagnosed with skin cancer, or role models who have chosen not to tan. For instance, Hugh Jackman is an Australian actor who had been diagnosed with skin cancer six times as of 2017. Using the social media platform Instagram, the actor urges followers to wear sunscreen to prevent recurring skin cancer scares. Other celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Nicole Kidman have also become more mindful of the dangers of tanning, with both women making a conscious decision to embrace their natural appearance instead.

If your teen insists on tanning, an alternative that can be less threatening to one’s health is the use of self-tanning products. Be sure, however, to discuss both the risks and benefits of self-tanners. For example, the topical application of products with chemical accelerators as the primary ingredient can cause blistering and other painful skin conditions. As their parent or guardian, offer to help your teen figure out which ones are appropriate for their skin type. You may even check with a dermatologist for the best recommendations.

3. Remember to lead by example

It is important to know that children, which include teens, learn by example — so start by becoming one. Take the lead in applying sunscreen every day and repeat application every two hours whenever outdoors. Wear a sun hat and find areas with the appropriate shade to lounge while at the beach, pool, or sporting event. If you make sun safety less of a chore and more of a normal part of your daily routine, your children are sure to follow your example.

Take Home Message

Taking the initiative to talk to your teen about skin cancer prevention shows excellent parenting skills. Having the conversation is also a significant step towards helping them practice their reasoning and become more responsible in the long run. No matter how the talk goes, be sure to keep the discussion open and ongoing. You should also listen to your teen’s viewpoints even if you do not agree with everything they have to say. That way, you can attune your message based on their perspective and correct any misinformation.

Alternative Skin Cancer Treatments at New Hope

New Hope Medical Center is one of the leading providers of comprehensive treatments for chronic degenerative diseases and immune disorders, including cancers of the skin. We offer a combination of conventional and alternative therapies to eliminate cancer cells, with emphasis on improving a patient’s quality of life. If you are interested in our holistic treatment plans that are designed to protect and strengthen the body’s natural defense systems, call us today at 480-757-6573.


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