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Use Vanity to Reduce Young People's Sun Exposure: Task Force
Date:11/9/2011

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors should appeal to young people's vanity to convince them to reduce their sun exposure, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says in draft recommendations released Wednesday.

For example, showing people ages 10 to 24 how too much sun exposure can affect their looks now and later in life can be much more effective than warning them they're at risk for skin cancer years from now, the task force said.

"We now have a reasonable level of evidence that we are able to change behavior in teens and young adults with a variety of counseling approaches that were appearance-based," task force Chair Virginia Moyer, a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told the Wall Street Journal.

Other experts agreed.

"Young people are not concerned, for the most part, with their own mortality. The idea of 'cancer' seems miles away and not a consequence of their actions today," said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She finds this is true for tanning and other risky behaviors such as smoking and drinking.

"For skin cancer, if you can point out that they are prematurely aging or wrinkling, they are much quicker to respond and use sun precautions," Green added. "In today's world of beauty and glamour, there is such an importance in youth, that even young people know the value in our society of staying 'young looking.' "

Excess sun exposure in childhood is linked to a moderately higher risk of skin cancer later in life, and the new recommendations for fair-skinned people would update a 2003 statement from the task force.

Studies reviewed by the task force found that young people were more likely to recognize the hazards of sunbathing when shown sun-related changes on their faces through use of a UV camera or by looking at videos and booklets that depict sun-damaged skin. Half-hour counseling sessi
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