Sunscreen Use in Grade-School Aged Children

We’ve come a long way regarding consistency in sunscreen use…but we still have far to go. An article this summer in Pediatric Dermatology examined more than 5000 fifth graders and found than fewer than 25% almost always wore sunscreen. And the percentage fell to 6% for non-Hispanic black children that were surveyed.

Sunscreen use in the 5th graders correlated with other preventive health behavior such as regular flossing,

As a dermatologist and skin cancer expert, it is frustrating to see these numbers. When it comes to skin cancers, prevention truly is the best medicine. We know that consistent and early-established sun-protective measures have a significant impact on decreasing skin cancer incidence.

We also know that preventive health habits are sustained much more effectively when they are ingrained at an early age. Which leads to the question of why we are not taking a more active role in educating our children, from a very young age, about how to protect and nourish their amazing skin.

Barriers to proper sunscreen habits are multi-factorial and may include: lack of parent knowledge, socio-economic barriers, an absence of sunburns in themselves or close family members, lack of established habits, suboptimal education regarding skin health, and unwillingness of children to adopt these habits. I would argue that if we can establish the ritual of simple and regular sunscreen use from a young age, that children are more likely to incorporate this important habit into their daily routine.

Sun protective education is an opportunity for all health care providers, teachers, other educators, and parents to come together to establish a foundation for lifelong healthy skin. By doing this, we continue to raise awareness about the skin cancer epidemic and hopefully have a significant impact on decreasing these numbers.

My practice is centered on skin cancer treatment and skin rejuvenation. When I examine the skin of my patients under the microscope, it tells the story of decades past. The effects of sun and inflammation lead to pigmentation, broken down collagen, and abnormal skin cell proliferation. I firmly believe that we can change the trajectory of the skin cancer incidence by educating our young people and help them incorporate healthy sun protective habits into their daily routine.

Oakes, Kari. Sunscreen use in grade schoolers: Wide racial, ethnic disparities seen. Pediatric Dermatol June 2918 38-39

Correnti CM et al. Pediatr Dermatol. 2018. doi: 10.111/pde. 13550.

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