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Sun Health Behaviors and Skin Cancer Risk in Children: Public Health Report From Ireland

By: Sarah Campen, PharmD
Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2020

A report issued by the Institute of Public Health for the National Cancer Control Program in Ireland introduced data regarding risk factors for development of skin cancer in adult life. The authors of the report collected information on sunburn and use of sun protection measures in children; these findings will be used to implement the National Skin Cancer Prevention Plan 2019–2022, with a goal to radically reduce the incidence of skin cancer. “This report will help to inform public policy and programs aimed at cancer prevention,” explained Helen McAvoy, MD, of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland, Dublin, in a press release. “The frequency of sunburn found in this report is concerning.”

Data used in the report were collected from the 2018 Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children Survey, a questionnaire that inquired about health behaviors in 10,271 children between the ages of 10 and 17. The report revealed that nearly 90% of these youngsters had experienced sunburn in their lifetime, and 74% had a sunburn at least once during the past year. Although 8 of 10 schoolchildren reported wearing sunscreen, the adoption of other sun protection measures—covering up, wearing hats, and avoiding peak ultraviolet (UV) hours of the day—were less consistent. A total of 17% reported never using sunscreen.

Girls were more likely to wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and clothes that cover arms and legs as well as to avoid peak UV hours; boys were more likely to wear hats. Although Irish law prohibits the use of tanning beds in children younger than age 18, 3% of children reported using a tanning bed in the past 12 months.

“Being outside and keeping active is good for our physical and mental health, but we also need to be sun smart,” concluded Dr. McAvoy.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.



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