Three Ways to Protect Kids From Skin Cancer

Melanoma prevention starts at birth with constant protection from UV rays

(RxWiki News) Sunburns not only hurt when they happen, but they also put kids at risk for skin cancer down the line. Skin damage is preventable though – with shade, sunscreen and clothing.

A recent study tested whether mailing out sun-protective kits to families would reduce kids’ sun damage.

Results showed that people used the kits and the kids had fewer moles.

"Use sunscreen, hats and clothing to protect from the sun."

Lori Crane, PhD, MPH, chair of the Department of Community & Behavioral Health at the Colorado School of Public Health and investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, led the study.

Dr. Crane said, “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.”

For the Colorado Kids Sun Care Program, 676 white, non-Hispanic 6 year-olds and their parents were recruited and then split into two groups.

The first group participated in phone interviews concerning sun protection practices. Each family in the second group was sent an intervention kit.

The kits contained information and education on sun protection, sunscreen, hats and swim shirts.

Both groups were asked to monitor the children’s sun exposure, burns, moles and freckles over the course of 3 years.

The kits were mailed out in the spring of 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Parents were interviewed about their sun damage prevention practices, understanding of skin cancer and skin protection against sun damage.

Results of the study found that children in the intervention kit group showed fewer large moles than the phone interview group.

Dr. Crane said, “After we emphasized long clothing in the spring of 2005, we saw a difference in clothing behavior in the summer of 2005 and 2006, but 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.”

Future research is necessary to determine how to make the effects of intervention efforts last over time.

This study was published in October in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Funding for this study came from the National Cancer Institute.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
September 25, 2012