(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
It seems pretty reasonable that too much sun with too little sunscreen can lead to sunburns and future skin cancer, but, according to a recent study in the June issue of Pediatrics Journal, it's also obvious that young people aren't listening to the sound of reason.
"Parents just need to reinforce wearing sunscreen and their children will become more receptive over time," Board Certified Pediatrician Kevin J. Blanton, M.D. of Sikeston, said. "Parents need to be consistent with telling their kids to wear sunscreen."
The 1999 study states that only one third of the 10,079 boys and girls, ages 12 to 18, surveyed said they routinely used sunscreen during the previous summer, and nearly 10 percent said they had used a tanning bed.
According to the Center for Disease Control, an estimated 7,400 deaths from melanoma and 2,200 from other skin cancers are expected in 2002. More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in 2002, and skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
"Kids need to be worried about skin aging," Blanton said. "Sun or sun booth tanning play instrumental roles in premature aging. I also think more awareness of the depletion of the ozone layer will prompt kids to use sunscreen. The more the ozone layer depletes, the more harmful sun rays reach the earth."
Research has shown that severe sunburns in childhood can significantly increase the risk later in life of developing melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer; while the use of tanning beds has been linked to other skin cancers.
Studies have suggested that using sunscreen in childhood could reduce the risk of developing skin cancers other than melanoma in adulthood by as much as 78 percent.
Blanton recommends children wear a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Sunscreen should be reapplied often and brimmed hats should be worn to screen out the sun, he said.
Parents should also be concerned about sun protection for themselves. Blanton explained: "There's the hypocrisy of parents telling children to wear sunscreen, but then the parents never wear it themselves. Kids model what their parents do."
The sun may not only zap color into people, but it may also zap out their energy and body fluids. Mowaffaq R. Said, M.D., a nephrologist in Sikeston, said, "The amount of body water loss in the summer far exceeds water loss in the winter because people are outside working or playing sports in the sun."
Generally, Said explained, water loss through the body can happen in more than one way. The two ways to be concerned about in the summer are water loss by sweat and water loss from kidneys filtering out water in the blood.
Next to oxygen, water is the most important nutrient the body needs to function. The body is made up of approximately 60 percent water. Blood is made up of about one-third of water and the other two-thirds of water is outside of the cells, Said said.
Water regulates body temperature, carries nutrients throughout the body, moistens and purifies the skin, improves the digestive process, eliminates waste and lubricates and cushions joints.
"In areas with high humidity and hot weather, like Southeast Missouri, sweat cannot evaporate into the air so people tend not to sweat. When they don't sweat, it causes high body temperatures that can result in heat exhaustion and severe dehydration.
Said continued, "When people sweat, it cools down their body, like an air conditioner. Sweat is not pure water. It's combined with chloride and sodium salt. That's why everyone needs to make sure they're drinking the right amount of water for themselves."
Aside from drinking plenty of clear fluids, like water or Gatorade, Said suggested staying away from caffeinated products. Also, hydration can be measured by the color of urine. Urine should be colorless and not yellow. If small amounts of dark urine are noticed, then more water should be consumed.
Basically, Said advised everyone to watch for signs of dehydration because most of the time, it can be prevented. "Water is essential for life," he said, "but don't force water on you. If you drink too much, your kidneys will flush it out, and if you don't drink enough, your kidneys will conserve the water."