Sun protection in children: a behavioural study
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Incidence of skin cancer is increasing worldwide and UV exposure at a young age is an important risk factor.
To compare sun exposure-related knowledge and behaviour among children during school and holiday periods.
Material & Methods
A cross-sectional study was undertaken at 12 Oporto public primary schools. Educational sessions for educators were head by dermatologists every spring from 2004 to 2012. An educational activity book, Play and Learn with Jo Spots, was distributed to all primary school children and was explained by the educators every year. A questionnaire about sun exposure and behaviour was given to students in 2004 and 2012.
In total, 2,114 students answered the questionnaire (1,233 in 2004 and 881 in 2012). Children practiced more outdoor sports in 2012 than in 2004 (86% vs 56%; p<0.001), but spent less time outside when the sun’s rays were most dangerous. The use of hats (64% vs 59%; p = 0.028) and sunscreen (35% vs 15%; p<0.001) at school and the application of sunscreen before going to the beach improved over time (51% vs 26% in 2004; p<0.001). However, there was an increase in sunburn rate (43% vs 37%; p = 0.005).
Sun exposure-related behaviour among primary school students in Oporto is improving but is still far from optimal. School would appear to be an adequate setting for effective and long-lasting sun protection interventions, and the introduction of educational books at schools, such as Play and Learn with Jo Spots, might be effective in bringing about positive behavioural changes.
Key wordssun protection behaviour knowledge children educational activity book
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