Survey shows college students tend to ignore skin cancer warnings

(NBC) – The husband of “Happy Days” star Erin Moran says the actress died from Stage 4 skin cancer.

But does knowing of someone — even a family member — change a person’s tanning and sun exposure habits?

Health reporter Erika Edwards takes a look.

Despite college students’ quest for knowledge, real-world lessons about skin cancer are totally lost on many young minds.

“This has sort of raised the alarm bells that this is a target group to focus on,” says Dr. Corey Basch of William Paterson University in New Jersey.

He surveyed more than 300 students. Seventy-two  knew someone with skin cancer. Some had even been diagnosed themselves.

Yet those students were more likely to sunbathe and get sun-burned — huge risk factors for skin cancer.

“They might perceive that it’s something that happens a lot later in life, however we do see that rates of melanoma in this age group are increasing, and that is the most deadly form of skin cancer.”

The study found a decline in the number of college students visiting tanning salons, but very few consistently and effectively protected themselves from the sun’s rays.

Sunscreens should have an SPF of at least 15; though many experts say “30” is ideal. They need to be reapplied every few hours.

Also seek out shady areas during midday hours, when ultraviolet rays are most intense.

Even sunburns in childhood increase the risk for skin cancer and melanoma later in life, making it important to teach safe sun practices as early as possible.

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