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Intervention Program Helps Improve Sun Protection Habits for Children of Melanoma Survivors

Update Date: Oct 05, 2013 10:14 AM EDT

Skin cancer is a disease that can be easily prevented if people were more consistent with their application of sunscreen. Even though protecting one's skin is relatively easy, people tend to skip sunscreen unless they are outdoors for an extended period of time. However, even if sun exposure is limited to 15 or 20 minutes, keeping the skin shielded from harmful rays is extremely important. In a new study, researchers analyzed the effects of teaching people sun protection. They used an intervention program and found that the program was effective in getting melanoma survivors to improve sun protection habits for their children.

"This country is expecting more than 76,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, to be diagnosed this year," commented researcher Mary Tripp, Ph.D., M.P.H reported by Medical Xpress. "Similar to tobacco education, sun protection education is also critical, especially in the early stages of life."

For this study, the researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center devised a randomized trial to observe the effectiveness of a sun protection program for both melanoma survivors and their children. The sun protection program was compared to the standard educational information provided to the general public. The researchers screened over 2,000 candidates from the MD Anderson patient registry. 340 survivors and their children were then entered into the trials.

The participants were split into two groups. The first group had the standard education material and the other group received sun protection intervention. The intervention group received information about sun protection and personal stories from melanoma survivors. The materials from this group were designed to encourage the melanoma survivors to help protect their children from skin cancer risks. The participants all completed interviews at the beginning, after one month and then after four months from the start date. The research team found that the intervention group practiced more sun protection methods with their children.

"This is an important finding because children typically use less sunscreen than is recommended and reapplication improves sun protection," said Tripp. "This study provides a valuable starting point for future research needed to develop interventions to increase sun protection in children who are at a higher risk for developing melanoma."

The study was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

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