I practice primary care in both university campus clinics and high schools therefore; the majority of my patients are teenagers and young adults. I am aware and concerned by the facts that indicate the high risk of skin cancer in this population. I understand that the research indicates that only one blistering burn in childhood more than doubles that person’s risk of Melanoma. Furthermore, the statistics are staggering; less than one-third of American youths practice effective sun protection, less than half use sunscreen, and 37% of white adolescent females and 11% of white males ages 13-19 use a tanning bed, with an estimated 2.3 million teens visiting a tanning bed at least annually.

Teens and young adults say they tan because it looks healthy, and in one survey, more than 80 percent of the participants aged 25 or younger felt they looked better with a tan.  Their rationale relates to their stage of development and underappreciating the dangerous risks of tanning.  So, giving them the facts about their risks of skin cancer and its prevention must be handled appropriately.

How should we approach this culture speaking a language they understand and want to hear? I believe that integrating education and information in a venue that this culture is proficient at using is the approach to take.  So, are we distributing skin cancer prevention information in electronic media venues that teens and adolescents use? Do we know which are the most effective? Are we as practitioners proficient at delivering this message to them culturally? Do you use text, tweet, post on Tumblr, create YouTube videos, or use Facebook to convey patient education? What’s preventing you?

Ousley is co-author of Dermatology for the Advanced Practice Nurse.