How THREE-QUARTERS of tweens are skipping sunscreen in bid for "fashionable" tanned look

How THREE-QUARTERS of tweens are skipping sunscreen in bid for 'fashionable' tanned lookOnly one in four pre-adolescents regularly uses sunscreen despite the risk of cancerous melanoma

Many children are spending plenty of time playing outside in the sun – but are failing to wear protective sunscreen, according to a new study.

A shocking three-quarters of pre-adolescent children are not wearing any suncream, despite warnings about skin cancer and associated risks of skin exposure to sun.

And, though young, many appear to skip sunscreen in favour of actively developing a suntan by exposing their unprotected skin to harmful UV rays.

Slip, slap, slop: A new study has found that three-quarters of pre-adolescents may be skipping sunscreen in favour of suntans and at the risk of developing melanoma

Slip, slap, slop: A new study has found that three-quarters of pre-adolescents may be skipping sunscreen in favour of suntans and at the risk of developing melanoma

A team led by Dr Stephen W Dusza, a research epidemiologist at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, looked at the behaviour of a group of children, monitoring their time spent in the sun, how often they got sunburnt and how much sunscreen they used, reports Good Morning America.

Quite apart from the health risks, the team's findings – published in February's Pediatrics journal and marking the start of an ongoing look at childrens' skin protection habits in the sun – highlight the impressionability of pre-adolescents, with many children apparently opting out of suncream so as to develop a tan.

The Massachusetts fifth-graders, aged around 10 at the start of the study, were monitored from 2004 to 2007.

When first questioned, half of the 360 participants regularly used sunscreen – but as they grew older, a worrying pattern emerged.

Three years later, when again interviewed, a majority – 75 per cent of boys and girls – said they did not use sunscreen.

Fair-haired children reported the most sunburns, which are known to significantly increase the chances of developing melanoma, while girls were four times more likely to spend time in the sun at age 13 than they were at age 10.

'The idea of a tan being
beautiful is perpetuated on television and in the media, and it's very
hard to break that'

Dr Dusza told the show's site: 'When you ask kids or teens about tanning, they say people look better with a tan, and tanning has a very positive association in kids of this age, so trying to get them to limit this behavior is a difficult message to get across.'

The key may be to target children's approaches to melanoma even when very young – as has been successfully demonstrated in sun-drenched Australia – setting good habits in motion before hitting an impressionable age.

The report has sparked concern among experts who see a gap between health messages and kids' actions – many of which are influenced by media, particularly when it comes to fashionable suntans.

Dr Jonette Keri, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine told GMA that melanoma 'is a very bad disease, so we need to identify what these kids think and once we know, we can target their thinking and try to change their habits.

'The problem is the idea of a tan being beautiful is perpetuated on television and in the media, and it's very hard to break that.'