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School sun study shows reduced melanoma risk for children who cover-up

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An Australian study of childhood sun exposure has shown that children who stayed indoors during peak UV periods and who were adequately protected outdoors developed up to 50 per cent fewer moles on their backs, reducing their risk of the potentially lethal skin cancer melanoma.

The ‘Kidskin’ study, conducted over six years between 1995 and 2001 and involving 1600 school children, measured the effectiveness of sun protection strategies on the children between the ages of 6 and 12 at 33 schools in Western Australia. Lead investigator, Dr Dallas English, of The Cancer Council Victoria, told the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Brisbane today (16/11) that it had been known since the 1980s that high mole counts were a predictor of melanoma risk. “We know that sun exposure in childhood causes moles and that the number of moles strongly influences the risk of melanoma,” Professor English said. “This study demonstrates that when children follow SunSmart practices the result is significantly fewer moles and consequently, a lower risk of skin cancer.” Prof English said the study involved taking photographs of the children’s backs in 1995, 1999 and 2001 when the children were 6, 10 and 12 years old. The number of moles were counted, with sun exposure recorded by parents. “We found that those children who spent twice as much time outdoors between 11am and 2pm had 10 per cent more moles,” Professor English said. “More significantly, when clothing use was averaged over two summers those children whose backs were covered least often had 53 per cent more moles at 12 years of age than those whose backs were always covered.” Professor English said sunscreen use did not affect the number of moles. “The clear message for schools and parents is that reduced exposure to sun in the middle of the day, improved provision of shade and adequate clothing protection will substantially reduce children’s future risk of skin cancer,” he said.(Source: The Cancer Council: November 2005.)

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Posted On: 16 November, 2005
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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