A combination approach boosts the chances of proper sun protection for children, researchers report.
The study included 300 parents or other family caregivers of children between the ages of 2 and 6. About half of the adults were assigned to a child sun safety program, and the rest received usual information about protecting children from the sun.
The sun safety program included a 13-page, read-along book that featured child characters highlighting sun safety, a sun-protective swim shirt, and four sun protection reminders sent weekly by text message.
Four weeks later, children participating in the program had higher scores on sun protection for both sunny and cloudy days. They also were more likely to use sunscreen and to wear a shirt with sleeves on sunny days.
Children in the program also had smaller sun-related changes in skin pigment, according to the study published online recently in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The findings suggest this program can improve children’s sun protection and reduce their future risk of skin cancer, Dr. June Robinson, a professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues concluded.
Melanoma is the second most common type of cancer among teens and young adults. Sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer.
Doctors often believe that “less is more” and simplifying recommendations helps patients, an accompanying journal editorial noted. It added that this study suggests that a “more is more” approach leads to healthier sun protection habits among children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains how to protect children from the sun.