Sun exposure, whether you are an adult or a child, increases your chances for skin cancer. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer among young adults and adolescents. Teaching children about sun protection as early as possible is the first step toward preventing skin cancer.
June K. Robinson, M.D., of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and editor of JAMA Dermatology, and coauthors conducted a summertime randomized clinical trial to study the effects of a sun-protection intervention program. The trial was composed of 300 caregivers (parents or relatives) who brought a child between the ages of 2-6 to a well-child visit at two pediatric clinics. 15 pediatricians participated in the program.
Out of the 300 caregiver and child pairs, 153 were assigned to the sun-protection intervention and the other 147 were assigned to receive the information usually provided during a well-child visit. The sun-protection intervention program included four sun protection reminders sent weekly by text message, a sun-protective swim shirt for the child, and a 13-page read-along book about the importance of sun protection.
The study had a four week follow up; the effects of the program were measured by the level of skin pigment changes in the children (using spectrophotometry). The children in the sun-protection group did not show a significant change in melanin levels on their upper arms. Participants in the sun-protection program had higher scores related to sun protection on both sunny and cloudy days, on scores related to sunscreen use, and on scores related to wearing a long sleeve shirt on sunny days.
The study did have limitations – the majority of the children in the group were white, which prevented an ethnically stratified analysis of data. However, the results of the program remain the same – more is more when it comes to sun protection habits, and this easily implementable program can “help augment anticipatory sun protection guidance in pediatric clinics and decrease children’s future skin cancer risk.”