An Effective sun Protection Program for Children

Northwestern study shows more intensive interventions increased sun protection activities by children

Summer's not that far off, so it's time to begin thinking about protecting children's skin.

A new study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that children who were part of an intervention program had increased sun protection behaviors. The intervention included a read-along book, swim shirt and weekly text messages.

June K. Robinson, MD, led the study of 300 children and their caregivers. Dr. Robinson is a research professor in the Department of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Children in the study were two to six years old and the caregivers' average age was 36. The study period ran from May 15 to August 14, 2015.

When caregivers brought the child for a routine well-child visit, they were randomly divided into two groups. A well-child visit is a routine appointment to check a child's growth and development.

Although physicians typically include sun protection advice during well-child visits, Dr. Robinson and team wanted to see if a more intensive program would yield better results.

The first group of 147 (control group) received the usual well-child instructions about sun protection. The second group of 153 also received a read-along book, swim shirt and weekly text-message reminders.

Children who received the more intensive intervention were more likely to wear the swim shirt and to use sunscreen than those in the control group. Children in the intervention group were also less likely to have skin pigment changes indicating they had tanned or sunburned.

In a related editorial in the same issue of JAMA Pediatrics, Albert C. Yan, MD and Leslie Castelo-Soccio,MD, PhD, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, commented, “As clinicians,we tend to believe that “less is more” and that simplifying recommendations benefits our patients... it would not surprise us to find that more complex multimodal approaches... may prove more effective at reinforcing healthier sun protection habits and that, in this instance, “more is more.”

Dr. Robinson and colleagues note that melanoma is the second most common cause of cancer in adolescents and young adults. They also note that sun exposure in childhood or adolescence increases the risk of melanoma.

The study was published in the February issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

The Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation, Inc., provided funding for the study.

None of the authors reported a conflict of interest.