Sun Exposure Risks To Children Reduced After Intervention
September 25, 2012

Parents Increase Sun-Protective Behaviors After Intervention

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

The summer may be coming to an end, but it´s still important to be wary of the sun.

These past few years scientists have studied the effects of sun exposure in a multitude of research projects. In one clinical trial with 676 child participants, researchers from the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado Cancer Center discovered that mailing sun protection packets to families reduces children´s long-term sun exposure as well as increases habits such as wearing long clothing, hats, sunscreen and avoiding the sun during the middle of the day.

The study took place over three years and the results were recently published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“This is a low-cost, effective intervention that could be an important component in efforts to reduce sun exposure in children during the years that they acquire much of their risk for skin cancer,” explained the paper´s first author Lori Crane, an investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and chair of the Department of Community & Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health, in a prepared statement.

In particular, six-year-old children and their parents were part of the Colorado Kids Sun Care Program. In the study, half of the participants were included in phone interviews and other forms of data collection while the other half received intervention kits. These kits featured items like newsletters and sun protection resources, including hats, swim shirts, sunscreen, and sun protection educational activities. The kits were sent to the parents in April and May of 2005, 2006, and 2007. The researchers hoped that the kits would allow parents to have a better understanding of how to keep their children from practicing unsafe sun behaviors as well as how to become “fully engaged” with their children´s sun protection activities.

Based on the phone interviews, the team of investigators was able to identify the various levels of sun-protective behaviors of the children as well as the parents´ knowledge of melanoma, evaluation of a child´s risk for the disease, and perspectives on the severity of skin cancer. Later on, skin exams were conducted to determine the kids´ level of tanning and number of UV-influenced moles that could be a precursor to melanoma.

With the findings of the study, the researchers saw that the individuals of the intervention group displayed a greater understanding of sun protective behaviors than their counterparts in the control group. In particular, the parents of the intervention group increased the number of sun-protective behaviors for their child with each succeeding year. The scientists believe that the elevated awareness and the increase in sun-protective behaviors show the impact of the intervention but also the difficulty in continuing this behavior.

“After we emphasized long clothing in the spring of 2005, we saw a difference in clothing behavior in the summers of 2005 and 2006 not in 2007. Then after emphasizing hats in 2006, we saw a difference in hat use that year. And then after highlighting shade in 2007, we saw a corresponding increase in parents´ awareness and use of shade as a sun-protective behavior,” continued Crane in the statement.

The scientists note that more research needs to be done to understand how effective the intervention was for the parents. They also want to determine which methods are more effective in limiting the risk for skin cancer. The researchers conclude that the intervention was inexpensive and, sent through mail, could be a cost-effective method in terms of spreading the kits on a worldwide basis.